Uasu officials

University Academic Staff Union Secretary General Constatine Wasonga (seated centre) briefs journalists when the union issued a seven-day strike notice at Meridian Hotel, Nairobi, on August 20. With him is Uasu National Organising Secretary Onesmus Maluki (left) and National Chairperson Grace Nyongesa. Dr Wasonga insisted yesterday that the strike is on.

| Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Lecturers vow to carry on with strike as pay talks fail

What you need to know:

  • University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi on Friday appealed to the lecturers and staff unions to call off the strike.
  • The 2021-2022 academic calendar begins in September and any industrial action will disrupt start-of-semester activities.

Lecturers in public universities say they will go on strike today after talks between their union and the government failed to strike a deal. 

The lecturers’ union called the job boycott after some universities failed to pay them the full benefits of their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), including a pay rise, even after the government released Sh6.6 billion last year.

Secretary-General of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Constantine Wasonga told Nation that by the end of yesterday, no deal had been struck. 

Uasu officials held talks with government representatives on Friday and Saturday, and were scheduled to hold more talks yesterday and today. Dr Wasonga, however, did not divulge the content of their deliberations.

“We’re talking but we don’t want talks. We want money. We negotiated and concluded everything so it’s up to the universities to pay. Until you hear from me say the strike has been called off, it is still on,” he said.

University Education Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi on Friday appealed to the lecturers and staff unions to call off the strike, saying it would disrupt learning.

He blamed non-payment of the full benefits of the 2017-2021 CBA and financial challenges facing universities on Covid-19 pandemic.

The Education ministry, he said, is collaborating with the National Treasury to ensure the funds are released.

Lost learning time

“Any sane Kenyan knows we lost a lot of time and we should now compensate our students for the lost time. I urge you not to strike,” he said as he confirmed that he has had several meetings with the unions. 

The 2021-2022 academic calendar begins in September and any industrial action will disrupt start-of-semester activities.

Many universities are scheduled to open from September 6, to admit first-year students.

University programmes have just been regularised, and a strike will be a big blow to students, who lost considerable learning time last year when all educational institutions closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dispute arose from the implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA that the unions say has not been fully executed by some universities. 

Uasu wrote to 35 chairpersons of university councils on Monday informing them of the strike notice.

However, lecturers at Egerton University have said they may not join in the job boycott.

Yesterday, some of the union officials said they were dealing with internal problems before making a final decision on the strike.

"The university financial status is so bad and going on strike now might not help the already bad situation. We need the students to be around so that the lecturers can be paid some of the allowances the management has committed to pay," said a union official.

Receiving full salaries

Uasu Egerton Chapter Chairperson Ngare Kariuki clarified that their members will proceed on strike if the management fails to fulfil the agreement they struck on internal matters.

"If the internal issues we have agreed with the management are not sorted out, then the union will have no choice but to call its members to go on strike," said Prof Ngare.

"The issue of promotions has been sorted, the salary deduction has been addressed and our members are receiving full salaries even although the normal deductions are not remitted. We have agreed with the management on a formula to pay the arrears. The management has also started paying our allowances," said Prof Ngare.

The Kenya Universities Staff Union and Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospital and Allied Workers are also part of the deal with the Inter Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF).

“We negotiated for one CBA but now some universities are paying higher than others yet we are doing the same job,” Dr Wasonga said.

The universities that have complied with the court directive are Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Chuka, Kibabii, Masinde Muliro, Garissa, Aluppe University College and Kaimosi Friends University College.

Since the strike notice was issued, only Maseno University has responded by committing to pay their staff, and pleading with them not to down tools.

“The university management has forthwith decided to implement the payment of new rates as from July 2021 going forward. Take note that payment of new rates shall affect the university by way of placing serious constraints on our institutions' finances,” says a letter signed by Prof Catherine A Muhoma, deputy vice-chancellor for administration, finance and development.

Report by David Muchunguh, Winnie Atieno and Francis Mureithi