, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 8 – The Kenya Universities Student Organisation (KUSO) has voiced support for a planned strike by three different university workers’ unions that is set to kick off tomorrow over a salary dispute.
The students say demands by the universities’ staff are genuine as there is need to ensure their salaries are harmonised with those of other government institutions.
KUSO Secretary General Anthony Akoto has told journalists in Nairobi that although the students do not desire disrupted academic timetables, their lecturers and other support staff must be well remunerated.
He called on the government to go back to the negotiating table fast enough to forestall the industrial action.
“What we want is dialogue. This is a moment of shame for the government and it is up to it to go back on the negotiating table. The talks have stalled for two years now and many things have changed,” he said.
Two weeks ago university workers issued a strike notice if negotiations to review their salaries were not kick started by November 8.
The Secretary General of the Universities Non Teaching Staff Union Charles Mukhwaya who read a statement on behalf of the National Executive Councils of University Staff Unions, said that university staff felt dejected by the delay in the review of their remunerations since 2009.
Mukhwaya said that a similar strike was suspended in April last year to give room for consultative meetings, but this time round there will be no letting up.
Mukhwaya said: “The unions find the government’s procrastinations unacceptable since it was a consultative meeting’s position that CBA negotiations will resume soonest in 2010.”
“We wish to remind the government that the earlier strike (in 2010) was suspended and not cancelled. The pressures from the union members urging us to reactivate the strike have become too strong and the officials of the union can no longer resist,” Mukhwaya further stated.
He said that their demand for better salaries was justified in these economic times to cushion the university staff as other public servants had also had their salaries reviewed.
“University workers are public workers like the military and the police whose salaries were reviewed. Why should we be left out?” he posed.
The planned strike if successful, may jeopardise planning for end of year examinations and graduation ceremonies in public universities planned for December.
University staffs are represented by three unions namely the University Academic Staff Union (UASU), Universities Non Teaching Staff Union (UNTESU) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hospitals, Educational Institutions, Hotels and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA).
At the same time, the students’ leaders have called on the Ministry of Higher Education to review loan allocations given to students from the current minimum of Sh35,000 per student to a minimum of Sh70,000. They say that the high cost to living is affecting students who use much of the loan to pay for school fees.
“At the university of Nairobi fee stands at Sh41,000 per year so when you receive Sh35,000 you already have a negative balance, how will you eat or even buy stationery?” he posed.
“If they cannot increase the loan allocations then maybe the government should have the Kenya Red Cross supply students with food because it’s a real problem,” he added.