University lecturers to down tools January 1 as salary fight escalates

Egerton University lectures singing solidarity songs in Nakuru during a press conference on February 9, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Lecturers at have threatened to down tools beginning January 1, 2024, over failure by the management to implement Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) national officials led by their Secretary General Dr Constantine Wasonga issued a strike notice on December 24, 2023.

“Having failed to comply with an earlier court ruling, the union hereby gives a seven-day strike notice which shall commence on January 1, 2024,” the union stated. 

According to the union, the university management board has failed to honour a ruling made by Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nakuru early this year.

Unfruitful meeting

The resolution to down tools was arrived at after an unfruitful consultative meeting between union officials and the university management on December 22, 2023, at the Njoro-based institution.

“The strike shall continue until all academic staff are paid the correct 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) salary scales at 100 percent,” the notice read.

The dons are further demanding full payment of their salary arrears deferred by the university since 2020 when the institution took a financial hit due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, the dons and other staff have been receiving monthly pay at between 60 and 68 percent.

Over two years since the pandemic was declared over, the staff have been fighting for reinstatement of their full salaries in vain.

The union representing academic staff moved to court in 2022 where the university was granted three months ending June 30, 2021, to resolve the concerns raised by the union.

“The university should within 120 days being the end and beginning of the budget cycle demonstrate how they are implementing what is in the CBA,” the court ruled.

The ruling further stated thus: “In default, the union is free to initiate fresh strike action after giving the requisite notices as the case may be.”

A financial statement released by the university and signed by its acting Chief Finance Officer Charles Wanjohi indicates that it is still grappling with a budget deficit for the current financial year.

According to the statement released during the recent engagement with the union, the university has a financial deficit of nearly Sh1 billion.

“During the 2023/2024 financial year, the university is operating with a deficit budget of Sh820,600,907 for the whole year arising from a Sh68,383,409 monthly deficits,” the statement reads.

It further indicates that for the university to run without debt, it requires Sh305,487,798 against the available amount of Sh237,104,389.

The university’s projected funds for the year include government capitation at Sh1.7 billion and tuition fees collected from students at Sh1.07 billion.

Wanjohi indicates that for the university to effectively operate, it is only able to pay staff salaries at 70 percent from the previous 60 percent and remit employer pension contributions at 5 percent up from the previous 1 percent.

“We have also seen an introduction of a housing levy of Sh2.1 million and NSSF Tier 1 and Tier 2 at Sh1.4 million per month as payroll cost which has put a further burden on the university,” said Wanjohi.

When computed at 70 percent, the university says that the staff salaries and operations and maintenance costs amount to Sh233 million.