More than 800 members of the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) Egerton University Chapter on Tuesday held demonstrations over failure by the institution to honour a Sh6.6 billion salary deal.
Also expected to benefit from the deal are Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospital and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) members.
The first instalment of Sh6.6 billion was released to all universities last year with the Sh2.2 billion being disbursed monthly.
On Tuesday, Kusu members led by the National Organising-Secretary Ernest Wayaya, Kennedy Mangale (Kusu treasurer) and KUDHEIHA led by Joseph Orinda (Shop Steward) protested outside the Faculty of Law where the institution’s council members were meeting.
"We demand full implementation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of 2017-2021, it is sad the management has not implemented the CBA which will expire this year," said Mr Wayaya.
The officials said that Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Chuka University, Kibabii University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Garissa University, Alupe University College and Kaimosi Friends University College had complied with the June 3, 2020 court order on adjustment of staff pay.
"What is so special about Egerton University that it has refused to comply with the court order? Sh37 million may have been diverted to other uses instead of clearing our salary arrears," claimed Mr Wayaya.
However, Acting Vice-Chancellor Prof Isaac Kibwage assured the staff that Sh37 million was safe.
He said the money that was released for the 2017-2021 CBA covered three years and was paid according to the schedule issued by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
"It is true we kept Sh37 million," said Prof Kibwage.
He added: "SRC gave instructions on how the money was to be paid. The Sh37 million was kept so that when the final tranche is disbursed, it will be used to pay the final arrears. The Ministry of Education sent a circular which stated that it would disburse a further Sh120 million to clear the arrears. "
Prof Kibwage said the matter was complicated after the SRC guidelines, which the university was to use to pay the staff, were declared null and void by the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
"The court ruling means that we have two options and one of them is a unified way of implementing the CBA that cuts across universities," said Prof Kibwage.
He added: “Promotions were effected but the staff affected did not benefit financially. We will add what we have to money the government will release to pay all the arrears."
The Acting VC said he has constituted a committee in conjunction with the unions to address the matter. He said part of the money had been used before his appointment as the institution’s acting VC.
He admitted that millions of statutory deductions have not been remitted due to the financial challenges the institution is facing.
"The union needs to work closely with the management to help the university come out of its financial crisis without interfering with learning especially at this critical time when First Year students are reporting. This financial crisis is not a creation of this management or the former VC Rose Mwonya. This is a wider problem across all public universities and the government is addressing it," he said.
Prof Kibwage said the institution has a current debt of Sh6.6 billion.
“We have written to the parent ministry to intervene, the staff should work together with the management to sort out this problem," he said on Tuesday.
Mr Wayaya said that efforts to initiate dialogue with the university had hit a snag.
"We have written several letters to the university management seeking dialogue. The government has released the money and all we want is a road map on how we shall be paid our salary arrears," said Mr Wayaya.
He added: "Some of us have seen this institution grow from scratch since we joined it in our youth and we would like to leave it stronger than we found it, all that we want is our money."
He said it was wrong for the university management to call riot police when the union members were protesting as enshrined in the Constitution.
"This is intimidation that has been used by the past regimes but we want to tell the management that we shall never be cowed by the presence of riot police."