Court extends orders halting lecturers' strike

A court in Nairobi has extended orders stopping a strike by university lecturers over salary increments.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa of the Employment and Labour Relations Court Thursday insisted the dons should suspend the strike and give negotiations a chance.

She said the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) and university managers had until next Wednesday to negotiate before the case was heard.

The application before Ms Wasilwa was filed by Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) under the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), in which they claimed the strike was unprotected and unlawful.

"An order is hereby issued restraining Kusu, their officials, agents or members from taking part in, calling, instigating or inciting others to take part in an unprotected strike or any form of industrial action, pending the hearing and determination of the applications," Wasilwa said.

FKE told the court the planned nationwide strike called on December 8 last year was unprotected.

The lectures are demanding a 300 per cent pay rise so they can earn the same as their counterparts across the world. And they want the pay increase backdated to July 1, 2013, claiming the Government had already agreed to it.

Kusu wants an assistant lecturer in Job Group 11 paid a minimum of Sh350,000 per month and a full professor paid between Sh1.5 million and Sh1.9 million.

IIPUCCF termed the strike unconstitutional and a violation of the law.

It sought to have the court declare the strike unlawful and unprotected, arguing that the lecturers' union did not give grounds for the strike.

In a replying affidavit, Kusu Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya said it was the right of every worker to join or participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union.

Meanwhile, in response to the application by FKE, Dr Mukhwaya said they had not received any response from the Labour ministry, whom they would appoint a conciliator.

"The staff of universities had no option but to issue a strike notice as provided for in the law. The union has satisfied the statutory conditions for a protected strike," Mukhwaya said.

He said the injunction against their strike was unconstitutional "since reasons why they strike was called have not been addressed".

"Section 76 of the Labour and Relations Act provides for protected strikes and lock-outs. In the present case, the dispute involves refusal by FKE to engage in negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement," he said.