14 December 2012

Kenya: Masinde Closed Over Pay Strike

OPERATIONS at the Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega ground to a halt yesterday after lecturers and other workers went on strike over payment row.

The boycott disrupted end of semester examinations for over six thousand students forcing students to join their lecturers to flash out of exam halls their colleagues, who were reluctant to join the strike.

The rowdy students stoned buildings leaving the window shuttered glass. A management meeting chaired by Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs Asenath Sigot was disrupted by the rowdy students. "I have never been stoned like this in my life. I am not ready to talk now. Let us talks later when this issue has been solved, "she said when reached on the phone.

The students who later poured out of the university disrupted traffic flow on the Kakamega-Webuye road as they engaged police in running battles. Police were forced to lobe tear gas canisters at the students to disperse them.

The students, who harassed and snatched valuables from travellers, had earlier smashed window at the Main Catering Unit and looted the store and destroyed security lighting at the hostel areas.

The officials of three unions --UASU, KUDHEIHA and UNTESU-- had mobilised their members to boycott work over what they claimed delays by the university to implement the 2010/2013 salary award.

The union officials claimed that the university had only paid them 17per cent of the 33per cent salary increment and 4.5 per cent instead of 7 per cent increase on allowances despite the government having released Sh230 million for implementation of the awards.

UNTESU chapter secretary Ken Ochieng said the university had only spent Sh41,283,888 million on salary arrears and Sh16,861, 131 million from the pay kitty for pension arrears.

"We are demanding our rights. We don't understand why money meant for our salaries should be converted for settling pension arrears which we were already deducted but were not remitted," said Ocheng.

KUDHEIHA shop steward Ernest Kabaji claimed the university management was holding Sh156 million in fixed deposit accounts. He claimed that the university spent another Sh28,376, 899 million on pension contributions and another Sh110 million on hiring new staff.

UASU chapter chairman Susan Choge said it is impunity of the highest order to ignore a signed CBA and hire new staff instead. Efforts to get VC Prof Barasa Wangila or DVC Finance and Administration Sibilikhe Makhanu were futile.

"I'm not on the campus. In a meeting, will callback later," Makhanu replied in a text message. Members of the university management team were said to be on a retreat in an undisclosed location in Nairobi. Only Sigot remained in charge of the college but declined to speak about the boycott after she was stoned by the rowdy students.

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