Crisis looms in varsities as workers vow to strike

The government has seven days to avert a looming strike in public universities that is set to paralyse learning starting January 20.

The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has already issued a strike notice.

A meeting called by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday to strike a deal with Uasu officials was cancelled at the last minute.

SEE ALSO :Lecturers set to down tools, again, over pay

At the centre of the new standoff is the release of Sh8.8 billion deal for new salaries that was to be effected from November, last year, under the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The amount to compensate the workers has also been in contention, with Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) disputing the Sh13.8 billion fronted by universities and unions.

Uasu and universities management insist their amount is based on the updated staff numbers, but SRC maintains that only Sh8.8 billion will be adequate to pay all the workers.

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Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga yesterday said the union accepted the SRC amount, signed and deposited the CBA with the Ministry of Labour and the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

“We are now being told that even the Sh8.8 billion was not factored in the budget and we shall not tolerate that,” said Wasonga.

SEE ALSO :Revealed: Inside varsities Sh8.8 billion salary row

He, however, said there will be no strike if money is released to workers.

“Why can’t our members be paid so that we teach our students? Must we always go on the street so that CBAs can be honoured? What is wrong with this country?” posed Wasonga.

He said the Inter-Public Universities Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) has not explained to the workers why they have not honoured part of their bargain.

“We are being treated to blame games from IPUCCF, SRC and the Ministry of Education,” said Wasonga.

He said the National Delegates Conference held on December 13, last year, passed the resolution to call the strike after the government failed to honour the pay deal that could have seen them get adjusted salaries backdated to 2017.

SEE ALSO :State must do all it can to avert varsity strike

According to the salary deal, academic staff were to receive salary increments of between 23.14 per cent and 25.07 per cent spread over four years (2017-2021).

The CBA deal is to cater for Uasu, the Kenya University Staff Union and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions Hospital and Allied members.

UASU chairman Muga K’Olale claimed the monies meant for the CBA was being diverted to finance other projects.

“The government has unilaterally, unlawfully and unconstitutionally dishonoured the 2017-2021 CBA we signed with them on October 28, 2019, in sheer disrespect,” said K’Olale.

It emerged that the huge disparity in correct amount to be paid to the workers is a result of staff numbers used by SRC and universities to compute the billions.

SEE ALSO :No annual pay rise for university workers

Data released by Uasu reveals the total number of staff in all the 39 universities stands at 32,944, with University of Nairobi having the highest number. Universities 2017 staff data seen by The Standard shows that Uasu had some 8,294 members, Kudheiha 8,211 and Kusu 11,292.

“We dare SRC to make public the staff data they used to compute the Sh8.8 billion. We are aware of the data they used and the disparities in total amount will not be accepted,” said Wasonga.

He said as of the last negotiations, the monies owed to them was Sh13.8 billion without pension benefits.

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Lecturers strikeUASUEducation CS George Magoha