Egerton University lecturers issue 21-day strike notice

UASU Secretary General Dr Constantine Wasonga leads Egerton University lecturers in protest on October 17, 2022 [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Trouble is brewing at Egerton University after lecturers issued a notice of withdrawing their labour in the next three weeks.

The lecturers, under their umbrella body University Academic Staff Union (UASU), on Saturday announced their intentions to down their tools in the first week of February this year.

"This is to serve you the notice of intension to withdraw labour with effect from February 6, 2023, if the university will not have complied with the court order," the notice read in part.

Prior to the notice, UASU Egerton Chapter held a special general meeting in Nakuru during which they deliberated labour issues that have seen them read from different scripts with the management.

“The industrial action is on account of the University’s failure to comply with a court order issued on May 30, 2022, directing it to pay 100 per cent salaries as at November 2021,” the notice read.

The union noted that they were concerned by the management’s refusal to comply with the order despite the Employment and Labour Relations Court finding them in contempt of court.

“Besides withdrawing labour, the members through the union resolved that they will be seeking further contempt proceedings against the management and the university council,” they added.

The notice comes barely a week since the students returned to the facility after breaking for the December holiday.

Egerton University Students Council Chairman Dennis Odero says that they stand to lose more should the dons down their tools.

“This is not the first time they are going on strike over this issue. It has resulted in having some of the semesters extended to recover lost time. Classes started last Monday for a new semester,” said Odero.

Egerton University. The University's internal debt is over Sh6 billion. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

He explained that the students understood the pain the lecturers were going through from the over 40 per cent deferred pay dating back to 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our plea is on the government to right off some of Egerton’s debts so that it can start on a clean slate. This is not a problem with the current management but a historical thing,” said Odero.

In an interview earlier this week, the union had called for the resignation of Prof Isaac Kibwage as Egerton Vice Chancellor and the council members accusing them of inability to lead.

“We are asking them with all humility to step aside and hand over to other people who can bring new ideas and save Egerton from sinking,” said Chapter secretary Dr Grace Kibue.

Prof Kibwage has however defended the university leadership noting that the institution had not received the expected capitation from the national exchequer current financial year.

“Egerton University's internal debt has risen from Sh6 billion and is now approaching Sh9 billion. This is not a problem unique to Egerton alone,” said Kibwage.

In the 2022/2023 financial year, the government allocated the university Sh3.7 billion against its requisition of Sh5 billion leaving a Sh1.3 billion hole in its books.

To complement the allocation, the university generates revenue from tuition fees paid by the students with most of its internal revenue generating streams recording dismal performance.

Failure by the university to pay the dons their full pay as ordered by the court landed Prof Kibwage and eight council members in trouble for contempt of court.

The court subsequently found them guilty of contempt charges and fined each of them Sh100,000.

Despite the fine, the cash-strapped university is yet to comply with the orders risking similar charges being preferred against the nine afresh.

The Standard
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