The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has opened talks with universities on the 2021-2025 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
The CBAs should have been signed by June 30, 2021, but a standoff over payments for the 2017-2021 period delayed the talks, thus denying various institutions an opportunity to table counter-offers.
The SRC has written to separate universities giving them the go-ahead to revise lecturers’ salaries as per the signed CBAs.
Due to financial instability, public universities have been unable to pay lecturers based on signed salary scales, leading to accumulation of debts.
Following a communique from the SRC, public universities have begun inviting the various chapters of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) to the negotiating table.
In one of the letters, the University of Nairobi has written to Uasu branch secretary Maloba Wekesa inviting the union for negotiations.
In the letter signed by acting registrar in charge of administration, Mr Bernard Njuguna, the premier the university has promised to table a counter-offer to the lecturers’ demands.
“This is to inform you that we have now received advisory from the Salaries and remuneration Commission (SRC) via a memo ref SRC/TS volume 1(40) dated September 2,2022 on negotiations for internal Collective Bargaining Agreement with Universities Academic Staff union (Uasu),” the letter to Dr Wekesa reads in part.
Last week, Uasu national secretary-general Constantine Wasonga wrote to the SRC protesting over the advice to public universities to discuss only non-monetary aspects of the CBAs.
“Your advice to universities to negotiate only non-financial items in the internal CBAs promotes internal and external inequality brought about by payment of different allowance rates for employees in the same grades represented by the same union,” said Dr Wasonga.
Dr Wasonga further noted that the SRC had declined to approve the CBAs for various universities.
The institutions affected include Cooperative University, Egerton university, Kibabii University, Laikipia University, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Moi University, Murang’a University, Rongo University, South Eastern University of Kenya, Taita Taveta University, Technical University, University of Eldoret and University of Kabianga.
Dr Wasonga explained that CBAs for universities are handled at two levels; the national level and at the local internal chapter.
At the national level, basic salary and house allowances are negotiated by the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) and the union.
At the local chapter, every university negotiates with the union on other allowances, which include commuter, leave, passage and baggage, daily subsistence, professional risk, book and medical benefits.
In 2019, the SRC issued a circular to universities on collective bargaining in the public service.
“Non-compliance to the above circular by universities has created delays in CBA negotiations, leading to the lapse of CBAs without negotiations hence creating a vacuum,” said Dr Wasonga.
The 2017-2021 CBA expired on June 30 last year.
Universities were supposed to have started negotiations for a new CBA for the 2021-2025 period from October 2020 and signed the agreements before July last year.
The two-year delay has seen universities continue paying staff based on the 2017 -2021 CBA.
75 per cent pay rise
In their 2021-2025 CBA proposal, which was submitted in 2020, the Uasu national office is demanding a 152 per cent salary increase for lecturers.
The union proposed that the highest paid lecturer should earn Sh494,415, reflecting a 75 per cent pay rise.
Uasu further proposed that the lowest paid lecturer should earn Sh145,702, reflecting a 152 per cent pay rise, by the end of June 30, 2025.
Under the current CBA (2017-2021), the lowest paid lecturers – graduate and research assistants – earn Sh57,729, while the highest paid staff - professors – earn Sh283,087.
Uasu also proposed that the retirement age for university academic staff be raised from 70 years to 75 years. The union further proposed a professional allowance of between Sh6,000 and Sh60,000 depending on one’s job group.
In last week’s letter, Dr Wasonga said the union would oppose any negotiations aimed at denying academic staff an increment in salary and allowances.
“The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to bring to your attention that the union is reluctant to negotiate any CBA without a review of allowances. The concerns we have raised are of utmost urgency requiring your attention. Failure to address (them) may result in industrial unrest,” said Dr Wasonga.