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Secrecy over staff numbers delaying varsities Sh8b pay

By Agustine Oduor | January 11th 2020
Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) Chairman Muga Kulale addresses the media in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Until last week, the Ministry of Education was yet to receive updated data from universities to facilitate requisition of Sh8.8 billion to pay workers increased salaries.

A letter by University Education PS Collete Suda dated January 2 reveals that the universities had not complied with the request put to them in December last year.

In her letter to push compliance from universities management, Prof Suda said the required data must detail a breakdown on how each public university would share the Collective Bargaining Agreement billions with their staff.

“You are therefore expected to give a detailed analysis per university to enable State Department for University Education and Research requisition for the release of funds by the National Treasury,” she wrote. The letter is written to Prof Geoffrey Muluvi, the chairperson of the vice chancellors committee.

The revelation adds a major twist to the stalemate and will come as a shock to the 30,000 universities staff who have since November last year, been waiting to receive new salary benefits backdated to 2017.

The delay to remit staff data by universities is partly to blame as workers are forced to wait longer for the pay rise.

A crisis meeting called by vice chancellors and Council chairpersons this week unmasked the truth, with revelations that the money was not factored in the budget.

Uasu has already given a notice for a strike to start on January 20, threatening to paralyse learning in public universities. Inside sources in the workers’ unions and universities management told Saturday Standard that issuance of correct staff data is the bone of contention, with most institutions reluctant to share information.

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The mismatch in staffing data is said to be the reason Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) rejected the Sh13.8 billion figure fronted by universities and unions.

SRC has maintained that the total cost of the 2017-21 CBA inclusive of pension component is Sh8.8 billion.

In a letter dated December 13 to Prof Suda, Commission Secretary Anne Gitau terms the universities figures as erroneous and advises the Ministry to engage with the Inter Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) joint negotiation committee to ensure councils proposed figures are accurately computed.

The finer details of the staffing data impasse emerged during a Uasu media briefing Thursday when the union challenged SRC to produce its correct staff data. “We dare SRC to produce the correct staff in universities so that we understand why their figure falls way below the agreed money,” said Uasu Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga. Data released by Uasu reveals that number of staff in all 39 universities stands at 32,944.

Initial staff data presented by the public universities before signing of the multi billion 2013-17 CBA showed a workforce capacity of 30,312 at that time. But even as the staff data row rages, correspondence seen by Saturday Standard shows the CBA talks between universities and unions were shrouded in secrecy and back and forth blame games among stakeholders. The letters show SRC had advised all workers are eligible for some four per cent annual increment to cushion them from inflation, but that was not factored in the offer.

This was despite an advisory by the SRC stating that the academic staff workers were entitled to the annual increment that translated to 16 per cent for the four-year CBA period.

Overall, academic staff salary offer was spread between 23.14 per cent and 25.07 per cent, translating to an annual salary award of between 5.75 per cent and 6.27 per cent.

During the talks, it also emerged that SRC set aside some Sh530 million towards miscellaneous which was never disclosed by vice chancellors when the offer was tabled to the unions.

A letter by SRC to Suda however advised that the money would cover up for any variation in the budget for basic pay or pension that may be occasioned by different salary points within same salary structure.

The letter however did not make any offer to house allowance which was a major demand by the workers, but revealed that some Sh1.4 billion would go towards workers pension contributions for all public universities staff.

The letter dated September 5 further revealed that some Sh6.9 billion would be the total additional sum for the implementation of the reviewed basic salary for the next four years under 2017-21 CBA.

If the projections by SRC were upheld, University of Nairobi would get the biggest allocation of Sh1.1 billion, with Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology getting Sh837 million. (See table)

Under the proposed deal, professors were expected to take an annual increment of about Sh8,547 and Sh9,753 for higher and lower limits respectively. Professors who earn a minimum salary of Sh170,681 per month would have their pay increased to Sh180, 434 in the first year of implementation and Sh190,187 in the second year. Their salaries would further go up to Sh199,940 and Sh209,693 for the third and fourth years, respectively.

Salaries of Associate Professors would be revised upwards by Sh11,766 for the lower band and Sh8,724 for upper limits. Their pay would further rise to Sh136, 47 and Sh144,450 in the third and fourth years. Senior lecturers who presently earn a minimum of Sh112,038 would have their salaries increased to Sh120,410, Sh128,244, Sh136,470 and Sh144,450 for the next four years, respectively. Lecturers would get a pay rise of between Sh2,795 and Sh4,919.

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