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DAVID MUCHUNGUH

By DAVID MUCHUNGUH
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Pay talks between lecturers in public universities and the government have collapsed amid claims of trickery, setting the stage for a strike next month that may paralyse learning in the 39 institutions that were party to a now contentious pay deal.

The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Friday accused the government of treating dons with spite and contempt and substituting the official 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) they signed last October with one that officials said is “mutilated”, in order to dodge implementation. Officials objected the new proposal for implementation that they said would hinder progression for members.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the union met in Nairobi and unanimously endorsed a decision to issue a strike notice February 4 2020. Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Uasu chairman Muga K’Olale said the government had “unilaterally replaced the CBA with a mutilated document that is unknown in law.”

The union has been locked in a dispute with the Ministry of Education and the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) over implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA. The parties have disagreed on the worth of the agreement with the union, holding out for Sh13.8 billion, whereas the ministry say the amount the lecturers deserve is Sh8.8 billion.

The Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) were also part of the deal.

When Uasu reluctantly accepted to take the Sh8.8 billion, it then emerged that the government did not factor in the cash in the budget and so it could not pay. 

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Education CS George Magoha, after meeting Uasu officials on Monday, said that he would request for the allocation to be included in the supplementary budget but warned the dons against going on strike.

“The CS is not our member. He cannot speak on behalf of the union. The union is going on strike,” declared Uasu secretary general Constantine Wasonga.

He said that the existence of the new CBA came to light on Monday when they went to register the mutually agreed one and faced obstacles. He said the IPUCCF and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), objected to the registration.

“IPUCCF that applied for the registration of the CBA now objected to their application. SRC even rejected their master scales that they developed,” Dr Wasonga said, accusing Prof Magoha of sending an attorney to court to block the registration.

He said that the new CBA was developed and only signed by the SRC, Ministry of Education and the vice chancellors’ committee. 

The NEC meeting was held to brief members on the outcome of the deliberations with ministry officials on meetings held on Monday and Wednesday this week. A source within the ministry told the Nation that during the meetings, a deal was struck to pay the lecturers Sh6.6 billion through the supplementary budget. 

Apart from the shifting figures, the other contentious issue was opposition by the government to peg the retirement age at 75 years, as preferred by the lecturers.

“The SRC has not blocked the registration of the CBA. The court has given the parties time to review and agree on the implementation formula in line with SRC’s advice,” head of corporate communication Anthony Mwangi said.

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