13 April 2018

Kenya: Lecturers' Strike to Continue as Talks Fail

Photo: Jeff Angote/Daily Nation
Public universities union members protest outside Parliament, Nairobi, on April 4, 2018.

The National Treasury wants striking university lecturers to withdraw a case they have filed against the salaries commission before talks on their pay demands can begin.

Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge told the National Assembly's Education committee that the salaries commission could only finalise its job evaluation and create a basis for increasing the lecturers' salaries and allowances in the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement if the case is withdrawn.

"The determination of the offer to the universities will be subject to the recommendation of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC)," Dr Thugge, who insisted that nothing would be done outside the Constitution, said.

Union officials, university representatives and Ministry of Education officials also appeared before the committee chaired by Tinderet MP Julius Melly, in efforts to end the one-month strike.

COUNTER-OFFER

Despite the directive by Mr Melly that the parties resume talks, each appeared adamant that its conditions must be met first.

University Education Principal Secretary Japheth Ntiba said lecturers should call off the strike and allow negotiations to take place.

He said the SRC is yet to be reconstituted to enable the new commissioners "to endorse the payment bacon".

However, University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga maintained they will only call off the strike once a counter-offer is tabled.

"If they give us the counter offer today, we will return to class by Monday," he said.

JOB EVALUATIONVice-chancellors committee chairman Francis Aduol, however, blamed the National Treasury and the Ministry of Education for the stalemate.

Prof Aduol said the talks had collapsed after the ministry failed to authorise the universities to give an offer to the lecturers and other staff.

"Even if they give us a counter-offer of zero per cent, we will present it to the lecturers. But they have not done so," he said.

A report on staff audit, he said, was available for the government to use to give lecturers an offer.

Dr Wasonga said a job evaluation that was done by SRC should not impede the provision of a counter-offer by universities and the government.

NEGOTIATIONS

He told the committee that the Employment and Labour Court, in a 2016 case involving nurses, ruled that job evaluation by the SRC should not be linked to collective bargaining.

"The SRC, in a letter to Uasu dated March 18, indicated that the government had not sought its advice on the parameters for negotiations of the CBA," he said.

Uasu asked Parliament to direct the government to present a counter-offer and engage in negotiations so that the deal could be signed.

The union also wants the Education ministry and the National Treasury to nominate representatives to sit in a joint committee with Uasu to facilitate negotiations to "overcome the many bureaucratic layers involved".

PAYROLL AUDIT

Lecturers are demanding Sh38 billion for the four-year deal.

However, Dr Thugge insisted that the ministry must carry out a payroll audit to establish the actual number of university employees and the cost of their compensation.

"The State Department should also conduct a financial audit on the expenditure and revenues, including the internal controls in the universities in order to establish how funds released from the Exchequer and those generated internally, are applied and accounted for," he said.

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