Lecturers’ pay strike cripples public varsities

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By NATION TEAM
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Learning in all public universities was paralysed on Monday as lecturers made good their threat to down their tools, demanding full implementation of their Sh10 billion collective bargaining agreement.

At the University of Nairobi, Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga said the lecturers will not resume work until the CBA is implemented in its entirety.

“The strike will not be called off until the Sh10 billion CBA is implemented in full and not in phases,” Mr Wasonga said.

He dismissed claims by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i that the CBA was to be implemented in phases.

“I challenge the CS to produce documents as evidence signed by both the government and the union showing that the CBA was to be implemented in phases,” said the official.

“We have a letter from Education Principal Secretary showing that the CBA was to be implemented in full and we will not accept anything less than that,” added Mr Wasonga.

The respective trade unions are fighting for the full execution of the CBA that they signed with the government in March. In the deal that ended the 54-day strike in February, the workers got a 17.5 per cent pay-increase.

According to the CBA, senior lecturers are to earn Sh111,753, up from Sh94,215, and the highest paid in the category currently getting Sh135,243 will earn Sh160,418.

An associate professor earning Sh122,956 will get Sh145,508, with the highest getting Sh204,684, up from Sh172,960.

A professor earning Sh144,672 will earn Sh171,207 and the highest paid will get Sh250,592, up from Sh211,753.

On Sunday, Dr Matiang’i urged the  lecturers and workers not to resort to industrial action as the ministry has already wired Sh4.775 billion into the respective bank accounts of 31 public universities and colleges.

Lecturers and staff of Maasai Mara University in Narok demonstrate to push for full implementation of their Collective Bargaining Agreement on July 3, 2017. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Lecturers and staff of Maasai Mara University in Narok demonstrate to push for full implementation of their Collective Bargaining Agreement on July 3, 2017. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“The government reiterates its commitment to meet its side of the bargain and the unions and respective staff are advised accordingly. It is therefore, our position that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for any of the university unions to resort to industrial action,” he said.

The CS explained that the CBA was concluded before the end of the financial year 2016/2017 and therefore, it was agreed that the implementation  would be staggered into two financial years — 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.

IMPLEMENTED IN TWO TRANCHES

 But Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu) Secretary-General Charles Mukhwaya said  there was no such agreement that the CBA was to be implemented in two tranches.

“We demand full implementation of the CBA — that was the agreement during negotiations.

They did not present any proposal to pay us in two phases and we will not accept anything less than Sh10 billion,” Mr Mukhwaya said.

“It is against the International Labour Organisation convention to introduce new clauses to an already signed and registered CBA,” he added. Mr Mukhwaya said the money was to be paid on or before June 30, a date which has elapsed without the government honouring its side of the bargain.

Uasu chairman Muga K’Olale said:  “We will only accept what we registered in court and that is the Sh10 billion,”

Kusu Chairman Richard Bosire accused Dr Matiang’i and Treasury CS Henry Rotich of frustrating lecturers.

Kisii university staff and lecturers demonstrating in the streets of Kisii town on Monday July 3, 2017. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI  | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kisii university staff and lecturers demonstrating in the streets of Kisii town on Monday July 3, 2017. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“President Kenyatta should worry about the two CSs, who are tainting the image of his government,” Mr Bosire said.  He maintained that there was no agreement that the Sh10 billion was to be paid in two tranches as claimed by Dr Matiang’i.

At the University of Nairobi, lecturers and workers marched in the streets of Nairobi, chanting “solidarity forever” as they vented their displeasure with the government.

At Maasai Mara University, Kusu branch Secretary-General Stanley Yiale led the industrial action and asked the government to honour the agreement in full.

It was the same scenario at Egerton university, Laikipia and Kisii universities.

The strike comes at a time when students are sitting  end of semester examinations.

It will affect learning in at least 33 public universities and their constituent colleges across the country with more than 500,000 students.

Kusu national Organising Secretary Ernest Wayaya said everything was clear on what was supposed to be paid and that they will not settle on anything less than the CBA.

“Dr Matiang’i cannot renegotiate the CBA because he doesn’t have the authority to do so.

He is just an intermediary between the government and universities and his work is only to pass the message to the government,” said Mr Wayaya.

He threatened to call on workers to vote for the opposition in the coming elections.

Reported by Samuel Owino,  Elgar Machuka, Magdalene Wanja, George Sayagie, Steve Njuguna, Elgar Machuka and Winnie Atieno

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