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Defiant lecturers vow to go on strike as court extends barring orders

By Lonah Kibet | January 19th 2017
From left: Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary General Constantine Wasonga, his Kenya University Staff Union counterpart Charles Mukhwaya and Uasu chairman Muga K'Olale in a show of solidarity when they issued a strike notice. [Photo: Willis Awandu/Standard]

Operations in all public universities could Thursday be disrupted if lecturers make good their threat to down their tools despite a court order barring them.

Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) and University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) officially launched their strike Wednesday after their one-week notice lapsed without any communication from the Government.

Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said they were withdrawing their services until the 2013-2017 collective bargaining agreement was negotiated, signed, registered and an implementation schedule agreed.

"I gave the notice for a strike on January 12, 2017, to the Inter Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF). My lines of communications have been open but nobody has contacted me," Dr Wasonga said.

"Since 2013 to date, they have been requesting a postponement of negotiations, saying they were going to consult their principals. I want to give them time to go and consult as we withdraw our labour."

Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Hellen Wasilwa Wednesday extended the orders she gave on Friday barring the lectures from going on strike to February 1, 2017, when a case about the strike will be mentioned.

In her order, Justice Wasilwa restrained the respondents, Kusu and Uasu, their officials, agents and/or members from taking part in what she termed an unprotected strike or any form of industrial action pending the hearing and determination of the application by IPUCCF.

Wasonga said they were not afraid of being arrested over the issue.

"The only arrest we fear is cardiac arrest," he said while launching the strike at the University of Nairobi Chancellors Court Wednesday afternoon.

Wasonga challenged Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to employ the same enthusiasm he had while calling for the marking and release of primary and secondary school exams in addressing the CBA dispute.

The lecturers vowed to go on strike and paralyse university learning to protest against failure by the Government to come up with a counter-offer to their pay increase proposal issued in 2012.

Unlike previous proposals that ask for a certain percentage increase, they are now asking for a new payment structure in the universities to address huge disparities.

Kusu Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya had earlier said the disparities included instances in which a senior lecturer earns less than an ordinary lecturer or an associate professor gets more than a senior professor, and huge conventional salary differentials between consecutive grades.

He added that the difference between the highest-paid employee and the lowest-paid employee runs into 100 times more.

According to him, the highest-paid employee is the vice chancellor, who takes home about Sh1.3 million, while the lowest-paid are subordinate staff who get about Sh15,000.

The proposed structure will have the salary difference brought down to between 20 and 25 per cent.

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