Public varsity staff up in arms over pay cuts

Universities' Academic Staff Union in a show of solidarity, demanding salary increase during a press conference at Meridian Hotel, Nairobi, on January 17, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Prof Mwonya said Egerton University receives about Sh173 million from the government while its annual payroll is more than Sh200 million.
  • Great Lakes University human resources manager Paul Rono said administrators had not discussed salary reductions.

Public university lecturers and other workers are headed for a clash with their employers over pay cuts.

Egerton and Kisii universities have announced salary reductions of 30-40 per cent on the grounds that they have not received money from the National Treasury.

Workers at the two institutions have not received their April salaries.

University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga and Chairman Muga K’Olale said the organisation would not accept pay cuts.

“Our members should reject the 60 per cent salary. University administrators have not contacted the union,” Dr Wasonga said.

He asked the universities to push the government to release the funds. “The Treasury should bail them out because students are not in session.”

In a notice to staff on Wednesday, Egerton University Vice-Chancellor Rose Mwonya said the institution is not able to generate enough funds.

“The university management board resolved that … staff in grade One to Four receive full net salary while those in grades Five to 19 will get 60 per cent of their net pay and the balance will be settled as soon as funds are available,” Prof Mwonya said.

CASH DEFICIT

Workers’ unions met Prof Mwonya for the second time in less than a week on Monday and rejected the plan.

“The financial situation at public universities is dire and union officials know that. We appeal for assistance from the government to enable us to pay our staff. Union representatives should be patient and that is why we have decided to settle 60 per cent of employees’ salaries,” the VC said.

Prof Mwonya added that Egerton University receives about Sh173 million from the government while its annual payroll is more than Sh200 million. The institution has more than 1,900 workers.

Kisii University also announced a 40 per cent reduction in pay, saying it has a deficit of Sh56 million.

“In ordinary times, this deficit would have been offset by the money raised from students. Since universities are closed, we have not received any cash,” Vice-Chancellor John Akama said.

Prof Akama added that the full amount would be paid when the situation stabilises. The university’s total payroll is Sh147,331,149.

The Kisii University Uasu chapter said it was not consulted on the pay cuts. “Deductions have already been made on the salaries members received yesterday,” a lecturer told the Nation.

NO FUNDING

The pay cut comes just weeks after the dismissal of some employees. The workers vowed to challenge their dismissal in court.

Just last week, the Employment and Labour Relations Court halted the “unfair, illegal, arbitrary and irregular” dismissal of about 80 university staff.

The management said it took the decision on the grounds that the university is in a financial crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Maseno University has asked employees to take voluntary pay cuts from this month.

University public relations director Owen McOnyango said the target is senior employees.

“Some staff members have surrendered part of their pay because of the pandemic. They have already signed the documents and this will be reflected on their slips at the end of this month,” Dr McOnyango told the Nation on Wednesday.

Great Lakes University human resources manager Paul Rono said administrators had not discussed salary reductions.

At Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, employees whose services are classified as non-essential have been told to take leave until the virus is contained.

UNMANAGEABLE WORKFORCE

Prof K’Olale blamed the government, saying it had failed to finance public universities.

“Since module two programmes were scrapped, few universities make money. The matter of salaries rests in the hands of the Treasury,” he said.

“Employees cannot be expected to bear the brunt of the fiscal deficit. It is unconstitutional and illegal to unilaterally reduce salaries without negotiated consent.”

He described pay cuts as “the height of impunity”, adding that Uasu would demand the dismissal of councils and VCs who fail to settle workers’ salaries.

Dr Wasonga blamed the management of public universities for the current crisis, saying the institutions have too many unskilled workers.

“Before the execution of the 40 per cent pay cuts, university administrators should give a list of employees hired by the government and those recruited locally. Why should people employed by the government suffer?”

He said Moi University had hired more than 1,500 casual workers, a number greater than those recruited by the government.

Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng, Ruth Mbula and Dickens Wasonga

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