Judges raise concerns as labour cases against Egerton surpass 20

Egerton University main campus.  [File, Standard]

Judges in Nakuru have raised concerns over increased number of labour cases against Egerton University in Nakuru courts.

The cases total 23 currently.

According to the judges, the many unresolved cases at the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) pose a threat to the survival of the university.

Speaking during an open day as ELRC celebrated ten years since its inception, Nakuru presiding judge Hillary Chemitei said the disputes on the university must be handled in a better way.

“We cannot have 23 pending cases in court relating to our biggest tertiary institution in Nakuru, that is supposed to provide education for our children,” said Chemitei.

He noted that the disputes, most of them relating to salaries, employment and the running of the institution, have sucked in the university union, its council and the ELRC court, to the detriment of the institution.

According to Chemitei, the disputes can only be resolved if the four stakeholders sit down and discuss the best way to resolve the issues, including using the Alternative Justice System (AJS).

Chemitei said the court was worried that if the university falls, all of Nakuru residents will be negatively affected, especially lecturers, staff and students.

According to the university’s website, Egerton has 589 academic and 1,352 nonacademic staff and 17,928 undergraduate and 560 postgraduate students.

The judge said the salary saga must end, and the staff and lecturers must be paid, but in the meantime, the university can come together with the staff union and agree on the way forward.

“The court must protect the rights of the staff and also resolve challenges in the institution. We also invite the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to sit down and decide on the best way to proceed,” he said.

Chemitei further pleaded with the university and the union to avoid shenanigans in court and escalating disputes with everyone involved in their case.

This comes after the union, the university and staff moved to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to oust the two judges; Hellen Wasilwa and David Nderitu, handling all of their cases.

“Are we helping Kenyans or Nakuru residents by pursuing personal vendettas instead of dealing with real issues concerning the university?” wondered Chemitei.

Resolve matters

His sentiments were echoed by ELRC presiding judge Wasilwa, who said the court needs to resolve matters swiftly because it deals with the bread and butter of Kenyans.

According to Wasilwa, employment cases had increased in the courts in the past years, and they needed space to deal with other claims.

“This court is very sensitive because it deals with the lives of Kenyans, specifically their employment issues. We need to handle other cases,” she said.

Wasilwa said the AJS would help deal with cases that qualify to be referred and would also help get to the root cause of issues and give resolution instead of deciding cases.

According to Wasilwa, the court had made strides in ensuring matters in Nakuru and Kericho counties were heard and resolved.

She said since 2018, 1,523 have been filed before the magistrate’s court, with 385 concluded, while 1,128 cases are pending.

Rift Valley LSK chair Aston Muchela said the introduction of the labour court in the magistrate level ensured litigants can appeal.