Universities, union at odds over Sh10 billion pay offer

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga(R) and Chairman Prof Muga K'Olale during their meeting with the Senate-Assembly Education Committee on UASU 2013-2017 CBA for Universities academic staff at Parliament on Thursday, August 03, 2018. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

The 27,000 academic staff in universities may enjoy a Sh10 billion salary offered by the government backdated to two years if union officials and vice-chancellors agree next week.

Saturday Standard has established that the offer that has been kept under wraps will be the subject of the inaugural talks on Tuesday when the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and the public universities managers meet.

However, unions and the university managements seemed to be reading from different scripts yesterday, even as a meeting called today to start the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks was moved to Tuesday.

Mind games

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The details emerged as Uasu and the joint negotiations committee of the Inter Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) engaged in tactful mind games ahead of the Monday date with Labour Court judge.

Uasu Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga yesterday said they are not aware of the proposals from government, noting that the findings of an economic report sectioned by the court is yet to be tabled.

“As far as we are concerned, any offer must be guided by the economic report which will be tabled in court on Monday,” said Wasonga.

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In his orders issued July 4, Justice Byram Ongaya issued a 60-day deadline within which the Ministry of Labour’s Central Planning and Monitoring Unit (CMPU) was to prepare and file an economic report with the court.

Justice Ongaya ordered that all parties – universities managers, government representatives and unions – report the progress of negotiations to court on Monday next week.

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Yesterday, Wasonga said the CPMU was instructed to conduct a survey of market trends and cost of living, which will be condensed into a report that will inform negotiations.

Saturday Standard has learnt that backroom intrigues informed the change of the meeting scheduled to take off today at the Jacaranda Hotel.

“Kindly arrange to attend the meeting as scheduled herein with your negotiation team in accordance to the Recognition Agreement,” reads an invitation letter by Isaac Mbeche, the IPUCCF chairperson.

Prof Mbeche, who is also the acting University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor, put negotiating 2017-21 as the sole agenda of the meeting.

The later is dated September 18.  Uasu wrote back asking for the meeting to be held Tuesday next week, a day after the court date.

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“This is to inform you that due to prior commitments, the union will not honour the invite on the particular day and time but would like to propose a joint negotiations committee meeting on Tuesday, September 24,” said Wasonga.

But even as they differed on schedules for the first meeting, Uasu maintained it will not accept arbitrary monetary figures as has been the case.

“We will not accept any global money figures this time. We insist that all increments must be based on percentages,” said Wasonga.

He said Uasu will push for two key points in the talks: basic salary increment and house allowance raise.

He said university workers’ house allowance has never been reviewed since 2010-13 CBA.

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Wasonga said there exists a huge disparity in lecturers pay with distorted structures that must be streamlined.

“We ceded part of the money that was supposed to increase basic salaries to harmonisation of house allowances to match what Maasai Mara staff earned for about seven years,” said Wasonga.

Wasonga said the salary proposals will apply to all professors, associate professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, assistant lecturers, tutorial fellows and graduate assistants, and equivalent research ranks.

Details of the salary proposals made by Uasu shows that the graduate assistants pay would be between Sh195,656 and Sh306,006 per month.

Assistant lecturers would earn between Sh300,775 and Sh470,444 as lecturers take home between Sh406,050 and Sh635,444.

Senior lecturers would earn between Sh548,163 and Sh857,384 as associate professors take home between Sh740,020 and Sh1.2 million per month. Professors would earn between Sh999,030 and 1.6 million.

House allowances

And on house allowances, Uasu proposes that professors be paid Sh250,000 per month as associate professors get Sh190,000.

Senior lecturers would get Sh160,000, lecturers Sh145,000, assistant lecturers Sh135,000 and graduate assistants to get Sh130,000.

The union insists that in the previous Uasu–IPUCCF CBAs, the graduate assistant position has never had a consistent grade as the rest of academic ranks.

Uasu says that some public universities under IPUCCF hired graduate assistants under Grade 10 while others hired them at Grade 11.

“Uasu hereby propose that this anomaly be corrected by creating a distinct public university grade coded PUG–11, to accommodate all graduate assistants” reads part of the proposals.

It also demands mortgage allowance for its staff and car loans.

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