Nairobi — University union officials now want the case against the ongoing lecturers' strike withdrawn, following admission by Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi that the Sh3.9 billion owed to them was misappropriated.
University Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary General Muga K'Olale described the admission as an indication that the strike is legal and called for the universities management to honor the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
He told Capital FM News that the withdrawal of the case will open grounds for talks before they call off the strike.
"The government has formally admitted that we are owed in excess of Sh3.9 billion that is yet to reach the workers. We want the court order to be withdrawn because the government and universities have admitted liability. This confirms as it were that the strike is legal. We will not resume work until this money is paid," he declared.
He stated that they were now looking forward to be given the date when their dues would be paid so that they can go back to their duties.
"Once they give us the date of payment, then we shall jointly work out the return-to-work formula where we shall demand that the salaries of this month be paid in full to the staff," he stated.
He explained that in the return-to-work formula, they will also be demanding that no union official should be victimised as it was their right to strike.
"Those who have subjected us to this frustration including a costly strike must be arrested, taken to court and charged with fraud, corruption and abuse of office. Unless that is done, there always will be industrial friction in the public universities. This strike should set a precedent so that in future, nobody tampers with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that has been mutually arrived at, and registered at the Industrial Court."
His sentiments were echoed by the Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya who emphasised that other than honouring all the terms in the CBA, the monies must be used to review the basic salaries and housing allowances for eligible staff only.
"Since the employers have admitted misappropriating and misusing those funds instead of paying staff, they must therefore withdraw the case that they have filed in court so that it facilitates our engagement with them on the table to reach and amicable solution," he stated. "If the proposals are fulfilled, then we are willing to call off the strike. If not, then we will continue with our mass action until we are paid all our dues on total."
Mukhwaya stated that once the case is withdrawn, this will set the stage for them to meet with the universities management to broker a deal to end the strike.
"We did put these proposals ahead so that then the Ministry of Labour would liaise with it counterpart in education which in turn will reach out to the Vice Chancellors to respond to those proposals and therefore in today's meeting we are expecting that the Ministry of Education together with the Vice Chancellors will come ready with their responses," he said.
"If they agree to the same, then it is possible that we can reach an amicable agreement and perhaps re-look at the strike that is currently paralysing the universities."
He called on all union members to be vigilant throughout the process and not to be intimidated by anyone.
"They have been disrespected by the universities for long, so they must stand tall and continue to push for these rights to be respected. Should we be in a position today to arrive to an amicable solution, then we will be advising our members in the field on the way forward."