Strike action set to disrupt learning in public varsities

Academic programmes in 31 public universities are once again set to be disrupted if lecturers make good their threat to boycott work from next week.

Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) secretary-general Constantine Wasonga has invited the top union leaders for a meeting on Tuesday to set the agenda for a possible strike.

“After the Tuesday meeting, we will have another meeting of all 31 chapter secretaries to issue the seven-day strike notice on Friday,” said Dr Wasonga.

The strike threat comes days after universities told their staff to be patient as the issue is sorted out, saying they have already asked the government to provide necessary funds for implementation of the 2013-2017 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Dr Wasonga said lecturers will not accept to be taken round, wondering how universities can pay lecturers salary arrears and then revert back to former salary scales.

Universities are set to re-open on Monday after they closed in August for the General Election.

INTERRUPTIONS

The academic year has been characterised by interruptions, with strikes in March and July which affected the academic calendar.

The re-opening was postponed three times as the government waited for the presidential election petition ruling.

Lecturers are also protesting various attempts to interfere with the autonomy of universities as guaranteed under the Universities Act 2012. “Normally, universities begin their academic year in September with the first semester ending in December. This won’t be possible as the calendar has been distorted,” said an Uasu official.

The academic year is further expected to be disrupted in November when Kenyans go back to the polls for presidential elections.

The Inter-Public Universities Councils consultative forum chairman Paul Kanyari, in a letter to Uasu dated August 29, asked their members to put on hold plans to go on strike in order to allow them secure funds for payment of new salary scales as per the CBA.

INDUSTRIAL HARMONY

“We request for industrial harmony so that any attendant matter can be resolved expeditiously and to the benefit of all stakeholders without prejudicing the amenity currently being experienced,” said Prof Kanyari.

He said failure to implement the new salary scales is due to financial shortfalls, adding that universities have petitioned the Ministry of Education to enhance and facilitate their capitation this financial year.

“This was done by computing the additional funds required by all public universities on the resulting effect and or financial implications of the CBA 2013-2017 and its sustainability in respective institutions for this financial year,” he added.

Prof Kanyari said universities will continue to pay salaries and house allowances to staff as at June 30 until the matter is determined.

On August 22, Dr Wasonga wrote to Prof Kanyari to protest the delay in implementation of the new salary scale, warning of industrial action.

The government had released Sh10 billion for payment of arrears then reverted to old salaries.

AUGUST SALARIES

Universities are also struggling to pay August salaries due to delays in release of funds by the government. There are more than 27,798 staff, 9,000 of whom are lecturers.

Kenyatta University acting Vice- Chancellor Paul Wainaina said the institution has been forced to change semester dates following two strikes which disrupted learning.

“The repercussions of the disruption will be felt for some time,” he said.

Meanwhile, most universities are set to re-open tomorrow and others next week.

University of Nairobi has already asked members of staff who were on leave to report back to handle admission of new students on Monday.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Isaac Mbeche said the decision is due to the high number of new students. A total of 88,626 students are expected to report to both public and private universities, with 71,089 joining public universities and 17,368 joining private universities.

Delay blamed on late disbursement of cash and CBA perks by the State.

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