Taita University workers strike over implementation of pay deal

Taita Taveta University lecturers and workers demonstrate at the administration block to push for the implementation of their 2017/2021 CBA. The strike has paralysed learning at the institution. 

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

Taita Taveta University (TTU) lecturers and workers have downed tools over the delayed implementation of the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The strike has paralysed learning at the public university even as some students continue to sit for their end-of-semester exams. 

Over 400 members of the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu), Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheiha) are demanding to be paid their full salaries under an agreement signed on October 28, 2019.

On January 15, 2021, the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruled that the 2017/2021 CBA be implemented as negotiated.

The court ordered the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Ministry of Education to work with the Inter Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) to provide the pay increase of Sh13.8 billion. SRC had recommended only Sh8.8 billion.

TTU’s Uasu secretary-general Dr Patrick Kimaku said members resolved to call the strike after the university failed to honour a pay deal that could have seen them get a salary raise as negotiated and registered in court.

The university owes its staff over Sh16 million, money that unions are demanding in full.

“We won a case against the government, and university managements were directed to implement the CBA fully. Out of the 35 universities in the country, ours and a few others have refused to honour the agreement,” he stated.

Dr Kimaku accused TTU administrators of withholding the salary raise contrary to a court order. He said previous attempts to hold talks with the vice-chancellor, Prof Fred Barasa, had failed.

He accused TTU administrators of ignoring their grievances, saying they deliberately refused to honour the CBA despite the court orders directing all universities to implement the agreement.

"We must be given what is due for us because the government has given money to universities but ours has refused to update our salaries," he said.

TTU Kusu chapter secretary Joel Wanina said a meeting with the university management on Friday last week resolved to hold a follow-up meeting on Monday evening.

After hours of closed-door discussions, he said, they had no option but to continue with the strike until they get favourable feedback.

"We demand that the management must fully implement the CBA as signed in 2019. The government disbursed money a long time ago to universities to implement the agreement but we don't know why our employer is yet to implement the CBA," he said.

Administrators, he said, had offered Sh12 million, which the unions rejected.

"Tonight we will hand over our resolutions to the local implementation committee, which comprises six members of the three unions and six officials of the management. We will then meet the VC on Tuesday to hear his offer," he said.

They vowed to paralyse learning until the management implements the long-awaited pay deal.

Uasu chapter chairperson Dr Richard Kasomo said administrators had failed to provide a solution to their grievances and demanded the university council intervene.

"The management has been adamant that there are no funds to pay us. The council must address us because the management is not willing to resolve our issue," he said.

"We will continue with the strike until our demands are met. We will only agree with them if they give us a good offer," he added.

Kusu branch treasurer Mwanajuma Chala said members will not relent despite threats of disciplinary action against them.

"What we want is our due rights. We will not fear anything, because the Constitution has given us the right to picket to demand our rights," she said.