Why varsity lecturers cancelled strike

University Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga. [File, Standard]

Lecturers have suspended the planned nationwide strike that was scheduled to start today.

University Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga said they put the strike on hold to allow for talks with the Government.

He said the union and the negotiations technical committee have agreed to undertake a thorough audit on the implementation of the Sh8.8 billion salary deal.

The money was to benefit 30,000 members of Uasu, Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) and Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospital and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).

The strike suspension however comes after a meeting between unions and the University education PS Simon Nabukwesi.

“This is based on the outcome of the meeting of Union officials and the Principal Secretary, State Department of University Education and Research and agreement that we review the progress of conciliation process initiated by the Ministry of Labour,” said Wasonga.

UASU National Executive Committee directed that the Union suspends its strike notice to give a final chance for dialogue.

“In line with the NEC resolution, UASU accordingly hereby suspends its strike notice dated August 23, 2021,” said Wasonga.

He added that the union and the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) under the auspices of the National Implementation Committee (NIC) have started meetings to audit the implementation of the 2017- 2021 CBA.

“This audit will also check whether lecturers have been properly placed in their right job groups. This process is likely to take two weeks and after that we expect the government to implement the CBA properly,” said Wasonga.

According to Wasonga, the decision is a result of meetings UASU National Executive Committee have been holding to review the status of implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA.

He said this started since the Union issued a Strike Notice on August 23, 2021.

“The National Implementation Committee (NIC) has agreed that all public universities immediately submit returns to the NIC for purposes of audit and enforcement of compliance with the 2017 - 2021 CBA,” said Wasonga.

Prof Daniel Mugendi, the IPUCCF joint negotiations committee chairperson said that they attended a conciliation meeting at the Ministry of Labour on Friday last week.

“UASU agreed to call of the strike and allow consultations to prevail. Their biggest issue is that they would like to understand how the CBA 2017-2021 was implemented,” said Prof Mugendi in his brief.

He said another meeting was called yesterday (Sunday) to kick start the implementation audit to check if the CBA was implemented as per the payrolls that were developed and submitted.

“We have again had a very successful meeting and we have agreed that together with the technical teams, meet Monday to agree on the tool to be used for the said exercise,” said Mugendi.

And tomorrow, (Tuesday) the joint negotiation team and UASU meet to accept and approve the tool.

“On Wednesday, the team will again meet all the financial officers. The purpose of this meeting is to inform them what data/information will be required for the exercise,” he said.

Wasonga said that the meetings will review the Orders of the Employment and Labour Relations Court issued on 26th August 26, 2021.

Justice Nzioka Makau of the Labour Court issued orders barring the university teaching staff from engaging in any strike; and in orders issued on August 26, he said the planned strike should not take place.

“That an order restraining the respondent by themselves, their officials, agents or members from taking part in, calling or inciting others to take part in an unprotected strike or any form of industrial action is hereby issued pending the hearing inter partes,” said Justice Makau.

The decision to suspend the strike comes after UASU had rejected a last-minute advisory by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) on implementation of the Sh8.8 billion pay deal and vowed to push on with the strike.

In a letter to University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi, SRC defended public universities, saying the institutions honoured the annual increments on workers’ salaries.

Commission Secretary Anne Gitau, in a letter dated August 13, says that its verdict is based on analysis of payroll data for all public universities between July 2017 and June 2020.

“The SRC observed that public universities paid annual salary increments to their staff amounting to Sh5.8 billion between months of July 2017 and June 2020,” said Gitau.

The SRC letter says that the money was disbursed to universities in addition to the Sh8.8 billion negotiated.

Wasonga dismissed the advisory saying it is not factual and did not capture details of the 2017-2021 Collective bargaining Agreement (CBA).

“The SRC, universities management, treasury and Ministry of education officials were ordered by the court to look for additional money to top up the Sh8.8 billion offer. This was to cater for annual increment and essential pensions component, which they have not done to date,” said Wasonga.

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