A judge in Nakuru has cautioned Egerton University administrators about their failure to resolve industrial disputes.
Employment and Labour Relations Court David Nderitu warned on Thursday that the country’s premier agricultural university risks crumbling if the wrangling with staff and students continues.
Justice Nderitu lamented that several cases had been lodged in court and they illustrated Egerton’s inability to resolve internal disputes amicably.
“The recent cases have shown failures by the administration and employees to sit and resolve their cases. It is time for the people involved to engage in talks and resolve their disputes lest the institution crumbles,” he said.
The judge spoke when he ruled on a case filed by Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Egerton branch secretary Grace Kibue challenging the university’s decision to take disciplinary action against her over a notice on a planned lecturers’ strike that she issued on November 15, 2021.
Dr Kibue had told the court that Egerton sent her a show-cause letter on November 19 and 30, 2021 requiring her to appear before a disciplinary committee on January 19, prompting her to move to court.
Dr Kibue claimed the decision was discriminatory and that she had done nothing wrong
Justice Nderitu agreed with her and ruled that Egerton’s action was discriminatory and biased as no action was taken against other Uasu members.
“It was unfair and illogical for her rights to be prejudiced by the university. The court must intervene and take action,” he ruled.
“The university’s action had an impact on other Uasu members who aspired to be secretaries since it instilled fear in them.”
On Egerton’s claim that Dr Kibue stormed examination rooms to stop lecturers from issuing examination papers, the judge said there was no evidence to prove the allegation.
But he declined to rule on the legality of the strike notice, saying it was not part of the pleadings.
Egerton had accused Dr Kibue of insubordination and disrupting learning by issuing an ‘illegal’ strike notice before storming examination rooms.
Egerton Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage told the court that Dr Kibue had no right to call the strike.
But the court noted that it would be prejudicial to make a ruling that could affect Uasu’s national office.
He directed the university council and Prof Kibwage to file a case on the legality of the strike and involve the national union.
“The national union must be involved in the case for the court to make the determination as the outcome may affect [it],” Justice Nderitu ruled.