Uproar over unequal pay for lecturers

Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga. [File]

A fresh storm is brewing over the payment of billions of shillings in new salaries and arrears for university workers with vice chancellors and unions bracing for another round of court battles.

The Standard has established despite universities receiving an initial Sh6.6 billion, some institutions have retained the old salaries even as arrears paid to staff reveal huge disparities.

The money is part of the disputed Sh8.8 billion agreed upon in the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed between unions and universities' management last October.

The beneficiaries are 30,000 members of the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kenya University Staff Union and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions Hospital and Allied Workers.

It has emerged that only a few universities have paid new salaries as negotiated under the CBA while other institutions have used different formulas to calculate workers' arrears.

The Ministry of Education, it has also been revealed, slashed capitation to the institutions to raise the Sh2.2 billion balance needed to seal the CBA deal.

Data shows that staff in some of the universities were paid salary arrears nearly double what their colleagues in the same grade received in other institutions.

“Different public universities have paid different arrears to academic staff who were at identical grades and notches in the base year and with identical pay progression,” said Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga.

At Egerton University, for instance, assistant lecturers under notch 12 were paid Sh388,200 in salary arrears compared to Sh194,100 paid to staff in the same category at the University of Nairobi.

Assistant lecturers in Tom Mboya University College were paid Sh135,870 while their colleagues at the Maasai Mara University got Sh303,907.

Assistant professors in Egerton were paid Sh847,140, University of Nairobi paid Sh423,564, Tom Mboya (Sh296,495) and Maasai Mara (Sh663,195).

Professors at Egerton were paid Sh615,408, University of Nairobi paid Sh307,704, Tom Mboya (Sh215,393) and Maasai Mara (Sh481,780).

Vice Chancellors Committee chair Geoffrey Muluvi yesterday declined to comment on the matter, saying a meeting of the CBA national implementation committee has been scheduled for next week to look into the matter.

"It is only after that meeting that we shall see what has been the issue,” said Prof Muluvi.

Other vice chancellors who spoke to The Standard pointed a finger at the Education ministry and claimed they were short-changed.

"They deducted monies from the annual capitation to universities to cover the Sh2.2 billion balance that was needed and sent universities the remaining money as capitation,” said a VC familiar with the finer details of the deal.

Another VC said, "The money that universities were given was grossly deducted, and this is where the catch is. Will those who paid new salaries sustain their payrolls because they cannot revert to old pay? This is why universities paid different salaries."

But Wasonga said the huge disparity was the result of skewed implementation by the universities. "In certain universities, the arrears were calculated horizontally using an accrual or compounding method (Egerton) while in others, a flat rate was applied (UoN and Kenyatta University, among others)."

He said in Maasai Mara, the arrears were calculated in a pro-rated manner while at Tom Mboya there were unexplained deductions of up to 30 per cent of the amount due to staff.