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Varsities to remain shut as State and lecturers maintain hard-line stance

By Augustine Oduor and Lonah Kibet | February 23rd 2017
Egerton University lectures and non-teaching staff demonstrating at the University main campus after they downed tools to push for the implementation of the 2013 CBA.( Photo: Kipsang Joseph/Standard)

The ongoing lecturers' strike is likely to continue after the Government refused to add a single cent to its Sh10 billion offer.

The Government says the money it has given should be shared equally among all university workers, including paying their pensions.

In a letter through Inter-Public University Consultations Forum (IPUCCF), the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has advised public universities not to increase the current house allowances for their members of staff.

The lecturers, through their union, are demanding Sh22 billion in addition to a 20 per cent house allowance.

"The Sh10 billion should be spread equally without a compounding factor over the four-year cycle of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to meet the cost of review for salaries and employers pension bill for all employees represented by the three unions," said the letter.

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) officials have rejected the Government offer on grounds it includes pensions and that the counter offer caters for all the 30,000 workers.

SRC's letter means the Government is unlikely to cede more ground on salary talks even as Uasu members took to the streets yesterday to push for increased salaries and allowances.

Uasu secretary general Constantine Wasonga said they will not settle for anything less than Sh22 billion.

"The decision was reached after the Government failed to give us a reasonable offer for harmonisation of salaries and payment of allowances on the 2013-2017 CBA," said Wasonga.

The SRC letter, signed by SRC secretary Anne Gitau, rules out any increment on house allowances saying: "House allowance for employees represented by the three unions to be retained at the current rates."

Wasonga maintained universities will remain shut until the Government meets their demands.

Other university workers who will benefit from the offer are members of the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions (Kudheiha), Hospital and Allied Workers and Kenya University Staff Union (Kusa).

Uasu members currently take home between Sh53,167 and Sh70,889 for lowest and highest paid lecturers respectively.

The lowest paid Kudheiha worker earns a house allowance of Sh6,502 while the highest gets 34,027. Kusu members get between Sh17,013 and Sh27,222 in house allowances.

SRC further said the minimum salary for the lowest paid employee must comply with the minimum wage bill.

A calculation by vice chancellors of public universities seen by The Standard shows the lowest paid member of the teaching staff – an assistant lecturer– will earn Sh91,593 and professors up to Sh240,491 per month if they accept the Government offer.

The dons took to the streets from the University of Nairobi's graduation square and marched to Jogoo House, the Ministry of Education headquarters, to submit a memorandum on the CBA to Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i.

Lecturers and officials from Technical University of Kenya, Karatina University, Kenyatta University, Multimedia University, Kisii University and University of Nairobi joined the protests in Nairobi.

The lecturers accused the Government of ignoring them while increasing salaries of civil servants.

Uasu vice chairman Joseph Mberia accused IPUCCF of lacking good will in talks to end the strike. "They gave a verbal offer from which Sh4.2 billion will go to pension. The remainder was to be shared among the three unions, to cater for 30,000 members. This is a shame."

He said they were waiting for a written counter offer that was  to be submitted yesterday. "I only want Sh17 billion for Uasu members and I will call off the strike," said Mberia.

It also emerged talks to end the strike may collapse after Dr Matiang'i reportedly left it to university councils to handle the matter.

IPUCCF boss P Kanyari said action will be taken against the striking workers. "It has become necessary that respective university councils and managements take immediate steps to invoke their employment policies and guidelines on disciplinary measures directed at any staff members willingly participating in the illegal strike," Prof Kanyari said.

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