Egerton University crisis deepens as Uasu issues fresh strike notice

UASU, Egerton

Universities Academic Staff Union Egerton Chapter Secretary Dr Grace Kibue and chapter chairperson Prof Silas Mwaniki Ngare (right) speak to journalists during their special Annual General Meeting at Nakuru Athletics Club on Thursday, January 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

The crisis at the cash-strapped Egerton University is far from over after the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Egerton Chapter issued a strike notice with effect from February 6.

The new demand comes as a shocker to the institution’s management after the University Senate held a meeting on Friday to plan for the 45th graduation ceremony that is slated for February 10.

For the first time in decades, Egerton University missed holding a graduation ceremony in December last year in what the management termed a “clean-up exercise” of its graduation list.

Consequently, should the stalemate not be resolved in good time, thousands of students may have to wait longer to graduate.   

The call for a strike was one of the resolutions passed during a Special General Meeting held at the Nakuru Athletics Club on Thursday.

Court order

In a strike notice addressed to the chairman of the Egerton University Council Hukka Wario, Uasu said it was forced to issue the notice following the university's refusal to comply with the court order on May 30, 2022. The court order directed the university to pay the lecturers 100 per cent salaries with effect from November 2021.

 “Concerned that the university has failed to comply with the said orders, further noting that the council had been found guilty of being in contempt of the said order, the members resolved that besides seeking further contempt proceedings, they shall totally withdraw labour with effect from February 6, 2023, if the university will not have complied with the court order,” said Uasu chapter secretary Grace Wanjiru Kibue.

Staff at the institution now want President William Ruto to intervene.

“The council’s term is ending in March and we urge President Ruto to dissolve it because the Ministry of Education has not responded to our grievances,” said a lecturer.

“Kenya Kwanza government’s education reforms should start at Egerton University. The management and the council should be overhauled since they have been part of the crisis,” said another don.

Legal battle

However, another lecturer urged Vice-Chancellor Prof. Isaac Ongubo Kibwage to sit down with the union and discuss the sticky issues affecting the institution.

Meanwhile, the institution’s management has suffered yet another blow in its protracted legal battle with the Uasu chapter's top leadership.

The union won the first round after the court ordered the management to stop any disciplinary action against Uasu Chapter chairperson Prof Ngare Kariuki and secretary Grace Wanjiru Kibue.

Justice Jorum Nelson Abuodha of Employment and Labour Relations issued orders on Friday, January 13, 2023, stopping the university management, the council and Vice-Chancellor from summoning the two officials for disciplinary action.

“The court is pleased to grant the applicants leave to institute judicial review proceedings against the respondents for an order of prohibition whose effects shall be to prohibit or restrain them from proceeding with undertaking disciplinary proceedings against first and second applicants on accounts of grounds or charges contained in the letters dated December 22, 2022, and January 4, 2023,” ordered Justice Abuodha.

Justice Abuodha further ordered: “The applicants are hereby granted leave to commence judicial review proceedings against respondents, the substantive motion to be filed and served within seven days from January 13, the respondents to make a response within 14 days after service and that the mention be on February 6 for direction on hearing and disposal and the leave so granted shall operate as stay.”

The union has been pushing for the reinstatement of the full salaries of its members after the management slashed the salaries by 40 per cent.

Prof Kibwage and eight university council members were ordered to pay Sh100,000 fine or spend a month in jail for disobeying court orders to pay lecturers their full salaries.