13 March 2014

Kenya: Universities Staff Strike in Spite of Court Order

UNIVERSITY lecturers and non-teaching staff yesterday continued with their nationwide strike for a second day despite the Industrial Court declaring it illegal. Officials of the University Academic Staff Union and the Kenya Universities Staff Union carried on with their industrial action despite court orders halting it.

The Inter Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum that represents vice chancellors obtained a court order on Tuesday stopping the strike. Yesterday the Industrial Court gave a second order declaring the strike illegal until the case is heard. The Federation of Kenya Employers filed the suit on behalf of the 31 public universities that are members of group.

Industrial Court Judge Monicah Mbaru ordered that the Universities Academic Staff Union be served through the press after lecturers closed their offices yesterday to evade being serving. "The respondents (UASU) are not in court. We have tried to serve them but their offices are closed. We pray that we be given leave until Monday so that we can serve the respondents through the newspapers," FKE lawyer Gladwel Mumia requested.

UASU sent an SMS message to Egerton University Vice-Chancellor James Tuitoek declaring that the strike legal despite the stay order issued by Mbaru on Tuesday evening. FKE filed the case seeking orders to compel the management of universities and the union to agree to have discussions and arrive at a negotiated agreement.

"We have not been served with the court orders and as far as we are concerned the strike is still on," Charles Mukhwaya KUSU secretary general said yesterday.

"Courts or no courts, the rights of every Kenyan must be protected. Why is the government so reluctant to hold the VCs accountable? Is it that the VCs are above the law where they blatantly violate CBA with impunity and no action is taken against them? We will remain out and paralyze all the activities," he said during a press conference held at the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) building yesterday. The press conference was organized by the newly registered Public Service Trade Unions of Kenya (PUSETU-K).

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion who was at the briefing expressed disappointment with the government over how it has handled the issue. He demanded action against VCs accused of misappropriating the funds. Sossion said industrial action is a right enshrined in the constitution.

"There is a trend that every time the workers demand their rights the government resorts to court order. Court orders will never solve the issues of strike in the country," Sossion said.

At the University of Nairobi and Technical University of Kenya, classes remain unattended as staff and lecturers kept off. The same story played out at the Pwani university and Egerton University.

Students at the UoN expressed their disappointment by what they termed failure by the universities to sort out the problems in advance.

"The workers raised this issues long time ago, but I think the universities ignored them now we the students are at the receiving end. We will suffer the consequences by having our exams preparation disrupted," Mary Wanjiru a third year Economics student said.

Uasu and Kusu, are demanding Sh3.9 billion in salaries and house allowance, money which they allege has been diverted by vice chancellors.

The money is part of a Collective Bargaining Agreement signed between the lecturers and the universities in 2012 that saw the dons win Sh7.8 billion in salary increment and enhanced house allowances.

They are also demanding that all the vice chancellor be investigated and prosecuted over the allegedly missing money.

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