, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 6 – Lecturers and non teaching staff of all public universities on Thursday embarked on a nationwide strike over a pay dispute.
At the University of Nairobi (UoN), no learning was taking place as the workers gathered at the Graduation Square to be addressed by their union leaders.
They later moved to the University offices to eject their colleagues who were working before disrupting the orientation exercise for first year students.
Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) National Secretary General Muga K’ólale said they will not resume their duties until their demands are met.
“It is in the Constitution that unions have to negotiate with the employers. We shall continue striking until they give us a counter offer. Once they give us a counter offer, we shall sit down but we shall tell our members to remain on strike until we finish negotiating,” he said.
“The reason why we are doing this is to ensure that the process is speeded up so that if we begin the negotiations on Friday, we can finish up the same day and resume work on Monday,” he said.
He further rubbished claims that the mass action had been called off stating them as mere propaganda being propagated by the Universities’ management.
“The calls were made by the Vice Chancellors. They wanted to confuse and scuttle the strike but we were smarter. Our members know the necessity of the strike. We cannot forfeit two Collective Bargaining Agreements,” he stated.
“Negotiations are dictated by the legal framework. Up to now, we insist that we have to negotiate. Whatever they do we have to negotiate. The government cannot give us a pay rise without negotiations,” he pointed out.
The Universities Non-Teaching Staff Union Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya stated that they will be striving to negotiate two collective bargaining agreements which had been abandoned after the government failed to respond to their offers.
“It is unfortunate that we are going to do this industrial action which is going to paralyse learning and disadvantage our students. We want our children to be taught and graduate on time,” he explained.
“We do not want to disadvantage their parents either. But now we are being forced by circumstances. Surely for four years, with all this inflation that has been on, how do you expect us to continue working and teaching these students?”
UASU had last month said that they will not tolerate dishonesty on the part of their employers even as the university management missed a meeting scheduled to jumpstart the talks.
The talks were due to begin a week after Higher Education Minister Margaret Kamar presided over the launch of the process.
The Union had further condemned the vice- chancellors’ attitude towards the entire process and accused them of derailing the talks aimed at reviewing their perks.
The planned meeting at the University of Nairobi was aimed at starting the talks on the Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement of 2010/2011 and the new one of 2012/2014.
UASU had proposed that the two CBAs be collapsed into one and during the launch, university lecturers and workers had laid out a raft of conditions they wanted met.
It maintained that unlike the previous negotiations, the talks must be completed in time and warned of unnecessary consultations that slow the process.
UASU demanded that all public university administrations place their counter proposals on the table as a start up for any talks.
In addition, the unions demanded that all universities exercise transparency on their finances and make them available for public scrutiny.