Nairobi — The government is spending Sh5.2 billion in the current fiscal year in a bid to resolve the current strike by lecturers in public universities - the third in a year.
The sum was authorized by the National Treasury in a letter dated November 6 in which the ministry's Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge allowed the State Department for University Education to spend the money on enhanced salaries of public universities staff, pending the regularization of the same in supplementary estimates for the 2017/18 Financial Year.
"To avert the ongoing strike by universities staff approval has been granted to the State Department for University Education to spend Sh5,286,708,183 under Article 223 of the Constitution to enable payment of the enhanced salaries and allowance," the letter which the Education Ministry acknowledged receipt on Tuesday reads.
The authorization is in response to a request for an additional Sh7.7 billion to cater for salaries of public university staff under the 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement within the 2017/18 Financial Year.
Under the 2013-2017 CBA inked on March 13, the government awarded lectures 17.5 and 3.9 per cent increment on basic salary and house allowance respectively following a strike that lasted 44 days.
The CBA negotiated between three universities workers unions - University Academic Staff Union (UASU), Kenya University Staff Union (KUSU) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions, Hospitals and Allied (KUDHEA) workers - and the Inter-Public Universities Consultative Council Forum (IPUCCF) was valued at Sh10 billion.
The Sh10 billion was released in two phases - Sh4.8 billion being wired to universities in June during the 2016/17 Financial Year with the remaining Sh5.2 billion being disbursed under the current Financial Year.
Pending the release of the second instalment, lectures in public universities under UASU declared yet another strike in June demanding for the full implementation of the 2013-2017 CBA.
The protracted dispute was reignited on November 1 when UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga called for yet another strike accusing public universities and IPUCCF of negating new salary structures and reverting to old rates.
Wasonga demanded that the enhanced pay rates be retained failing which learning in institutions of higher learning will remain paralyzed.
UASU has since insisted that dons will only resume duty if the 2013-2017 CBA is fully implemented and a CBA for the 2017-2021 phase is negotiated.
Following the hard-line position by the union Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi told universities to forthwith cease hiring staff on a permanent and pensionable basis, a move UASU has vehemently opposed.
"University employees should now be hired on contract basis. This business of hiring every university worker even those working in the kitchen should come to an end," Matiangi told university managers who included Vice Chancellors during a meeting at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies on Wednesday last week.
"The proposal to introduce contract-based employment in universities will start in the next financial year, the time has come when we must reflect on how to run universities," he announced during the meeting.
The three strikes have had a negative impact on this year's learning calendar in public universities, the initial 54-day-strike having significantly eaten into time allocated for the January-April semester.
Already, some public universities have closed midway the September- December semester owing to the ongoing strike.