Varsity workers cry foul as they lose Sh3b in new pay deal

Universities Academic Staff Union officials after a press briefing on Friday last week. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Fresh details have emerged about an agreement between the government and public universities vice chancellors that denies workers an annual salary increment. The deal slashes Sh3 billion from a negotiated pay deal.

Data seen by The Standard show the vice chancellors have finally consented to take Sh8.8 billion as the cumulative figure for both salaries and pension for the 32,000 workers.

This is a major shift from the earlier demand of Sh13.8 billion they computed with unions and agreed as the total cost of the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

With pensions component and other costs, the figure was billed to rise to Sh16.8 billion. But letters of correspondence seen by The Standard reveals that the huge figures have been dropped and the universities settled for the lower amount to compensate its workers.

Strike threat

These new revelations comes after unions shelved a strike threat by about two weeks to allow court process scheduled for February 4. 

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha had promised to broker a truce to avert the strike in public universities.

The details are contained in a letter dated January 16 by Geoffrey Muluvi, the Vice Chancellors Committee chairperson to the Ministry of Education.

“I wish to inform you that vice chancellors of public universities and principals of constituent colleges met on January 15, 2020 at the University of Nairobi and approved the distribution of Sh8.8 billion being the total amount to fully implement the 2017-2021 CBA inclusive of pensions  and associated taxes,” said Prof Muluvi.

In the letter, VCs say that they resolved that the CBA is implemented in compliance with advisory communicated to them by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

What is, however, emerging is that the new calculations recently adopted by VCs will deny workers an annual increment further threatening to open fresh controversy over the payment fiasco.

University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary General Constantine Wasonga yesterday said the horizontal implementation of the master scales will chop off some Sh3 billion from the salary money to benefit universities.


“They have adopted to ignore the diagonal implementation of the master scale which has been the practice every year because it factors in the annual salary increment of workers. Ignoring that means that they have decided to steal our money to benefit them,” said Wasonga.

In the 2017-2021 CBA, workers were offered a cumulative salary award of between 23.14 per cent for high earners and 25.07 per cent for the least-paid staff. This translates to an annual increment of between 5.75 per cent and 6.27 per cent.

Under the negotiated salary deal, workers were to benefit from an annual increment of about four per cent, adding up to 16 per cent for the entire four year CBA life.

Last year’s correspondence between SRC, vice chancellors and the Ministry  of Education showed some critical information was adopted in government but was not made available to the union.

Letters seen by The Standard show that SRC had advised that all workers were eligible for four per cent annual increment to cushion them from inflation.

“Public Service employees, including university staff, are generally cushioned against effects of inflation through automatic annual increment on basic salary, which is loaded prior to implementation of the new salary structure,” said SRC boss Anne Gitau.

Mrs Gitau, in the letter dated September 30, said the academic staff workers were entitled to an annual increment translating to about 16 per cent for the four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement period.

Annual increments

In the advisory, SRC had directed that annual increments be loaded to workers before the CBA benefits are rolled out, a move that seems to have been dropped with fears the cost of implementing the deal would go up.

Wasonga yesterday said the planned sharing of the CBA money will not factor in the annual increment as was advised by SRC.

“SRC instructed the employer to add an annual increment of 4 per cent prior to implementing the new salary structure and this appears not to have been adhered to and we shall not accept their strategy,” stated Uasu.

Under the proposed deal, professors will take an annual increment of about Sh8,547 and Sh9,753 for higher and lower limits, respectively.