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All activities paralysed in public universities as staff resume strike

Egerton University employees protesting at the Njoro campus yesterday over failure by the Government to implement their pay rise. [Suleiman Mbatiah, Standard]

All activities were paralysed in public universities after employees downed their tools to protest the delayed payment of their salary awards.

In Nairobi, University Way was impassable yesterday morning as staff drawn from all three university unions made their way to the University of Nairobi to demand their pay

The strike forced lecturers, who were still in class at the university’s main campus, to terminate their lectures mid-way.

The boycott took off after the University Academic Staff Union’s (Uasu) National Executive Committee met and resolved to proceed with the strike until the collective bargaining agreement they signed with the Government was fully implemented.

“We agreed on Sh6 billion for academic staff and Sh4 billion for non-teaching (staff). This is what we want to be paid at once because all the CBAs read the same and should have been paid on 30 June,” said Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga.

The CBA signed and registered in March was to give 27,500 university staff registered with unions, Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels, Education, Health Institutions and Allied Workers (Kudheiha), the Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) and Uasu Sh10 billion, which had already been factored in the current financial year.

The agreement would see the lecturers get a 17.5 per cent increase in basic salaries and a 3.9 per cent increase in house allowances.

Kusu workers

The lowest paid Kusu workers will also receive a 24.9 per cent increment.

The staff were set to benefit from arrears that have accrued over the period covering July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2017, which lapsed last week.

In a different turn of events, the Government through the Ministry of Education said it had disbursed Sh4.8 billion and that the balance would be settled in the next financial year, sparking protests from the unions.

Kusu Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya said the amount announced by the Cabinet secretary was “alien” to them.

“That amount is a fallacy, it is as hollow as it is. He may have shared it with the media but we do not have anything to show that the Government has paid out the amount nor has it been officially communicated to us,” said Mr Mukhwaya while leading the protest yesterday.

“But even if he did, it would be the second violation of the CBA. At no time during the negotiations did we agree with anybody that it would be paid in phases; neither did any party bring the proposal to the table.”

The staff armed with twigs and placards reading, “Matiang’i must go” also chanted “Ni nani alimuumba Fred wa Matiang’i” (Who created Fred Matiang’i?)”.

University streets

At Maseno University, the over 1,300 Kusu and Kudheiha members spent the better part of the day singing and dancing along the university streets, vowing not to go back to work.

Led by branch Kusu chairman Peter Lisero and secretary Phillip Onyango, the employees claimed the Government had duped them into believing the Sh10 billion CBA cash would disbursed by June 30.

“We negotiated this CBA for a very long time and the Government took another four years before signing it. They cannot claim that there is no money,” said Mr Lisero.

In Nakuru County, Kusu National Organising Secretary Ernest Wayaya said a letter dated February 6 and signed by Higher Education Principal Secretary Collete Suda committed the Government to paying the increment in full by June 30.

While launching the strike at Egerton University, Mr Wayaya hit out at Dr Matiang’i for his purported attempts to release the funds in phases.

“The minister should be informed that he can’t renegotiate a signed CBA,” said Wayaya while vowing to paralyse operations at the university and its campuses.

In Kakamega’s Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, students expressed their disappointment and asked Uasu and the Government to come to a consensus.

“This will be bad if it is like the last (strike). We do not want to spend long months at home,” said Okeja Brian, a student.

[Report by Lonah Kibet, Suleiman Mbatia, Bernadetta Mwaura, Anne Wangare and Edwin Nyarangi]