A fresh tussle is brewing between universities and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over Sh14 billion pay arrears owed to university workers.
The over 30,000 employees are now staring at a gloomy Christmas as vice-chancellors struggle to convince SRC to part with the money.
Whereas the universities’ managers insist that their employees are collectively owed Sh14 billion by the government, based on correct staff numbers and the agreed percentage increment, SRC puts the figure at Sh8.8 billion.
SRC, in a letter dated December 13 to University Education Principal Secretary Colletta Suda, advises the government not to part with a coin more.
“The commission advises that the implementation of the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) be undertaken based on the allocated total amount of Sh8.8 billion,” reads the letter signed by SRC secretary Anne Gitau.
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“This is inclusive of all costs, including pension liabilities resulting from the review.”
Ms Gitau, in the letter, argues that the universities’ figures are erroneous, and advises the ministry to engage with the Inter Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) to ensure the figures are correctly computed.
The money the universities are demanding will be paid to members of the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), the Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospital and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).
Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said the union and IPUCCF signed the 2017-2021 CBA on October 28, 2019.
“To date IPUCCF has not informed the union the reason why the CBA has not been implemented as agreed,” Mr Wasonga said in an interview.
The tussle between universities and SRC has led to the unions involved threatening another strike when learning resumes next year.
Workers who spoke to The Standard yesterday said they will support the strike come January.
“We feel humiliated because we have families to take care of during Christmas and bills to pay next year,” said a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
Worried by the strike threats, The Standard has established that vice-chancellors have called a crisis meeting today to discuss how to prevent it.
“It is shameful that SRC has rejected our pay computations. We have now been summoned to a crisis meeting today to discuss the way forward,” said one of the vice-chancellors who declined to be named.
The tussle revolves around the correct staff numbers being used to compute the pending payments. SRC has disputed the numbers used by the university managers.
“The percentages we are using are the same. The problem concerns the numbers of employees the money is owed to,” said another vice-chancellor.
He noted that the Sh14 billion was arrived at after thorough calculations by universities Chief Finance Officers.
The tiff brings to the fore the long-running argument on the correct staff numbers at public universities. An audit conducted in 2017 showed that by February 2016, all public universities submitted staff data, which revealed major variations.
It revealed that the universities could not account for 2,514 workers in their payrolls. The institutions had declared a workforce of 30,312, but after the audit carried out by the three workers unions, the number went down to 27,798.
It was not immediately clear what staff numbers were used by SRC and the universities in their different pay claims.
According to the 2017-2021 CBA signed by Uasu and IPUCCF, lecturers were to get adjusted salaries backdated to 2017.?
According to that CBA, the money was to be paid on or before November 30, 2019. But now, with the December payroll closed, it is clear the workers will not enjoy the anticipated boom.
According to the deal, academic staff salary increments for the four years - 2017-2021 - were to be spread between 23.14 per cent and 25.07 per cent. This translated to an annual salary increment ranging between 5.75 per cent and 6.27 per cent.