, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 17 – University unions have suspended the weeklong lecturers’ strike after talks with Labour Minister John Munyes and officials of the Federation of Kenya Employers agreed to resume stalled pay negotiations.
Munyes told journalists at his office that the parties had now agreed to restart the consultations which stalled in 2009 within a fortnight.
Lecturers and non-teaching staff have been on strike since Wednesday last week demanding a better pay package as well as allowances.
Munyes said: “We decided on a matter of consensus to agree on a return to work formula and to give dialogue a chance. We have agreed that the unions suspend the strike immediately and that the parties mutually commit to restart negotiations within two weeks.”
The meeting was hurriedly convened on Wednesday evening as it became apparent that the two unions, University Academic Staff Union (UASU) and University Non Teaching Staff Union (UNTTESU) were not ready to call of the strike.
Notable faces at the meeting included UASU Chairman Sammy Kubasu, UASU Secretary General Muga K’Olale, UNTESU Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya, COTU Deputy Secretary General George Muchai, Vice Chancellors George Magoha and James Tuitoek representing the Inter Public Universities Consultative Forum (IPCCUF) and Harrison Okeche from the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE).
The Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIA) which initially was party to the strike pulled out to engage in negotiations with the university councils.
Munyes said his ministry would go back to the negotiating table with the Treasury, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Public Service Commission to find a lasting solution to the crisis that has paralysed learning in public universities for the last one week.
Those who took part in the work boycott have also been assured that they will not be victimised.
The strike had affected ongoing examinations in some of the universities and had placed graduations due later this month and December in jeopardy.
Soon after the strike was announced last week, Higher Education Minister Margret Kamar declared it illegal and ordered participating lecturers back to class but her orders were largely ignored.
Operations in public universities are now set to resume proper on Friday with end of year examinations set to be conducted as well as graduation ceremonies.
Egerton and Masinde Muliro universities were last week closed indefinitely as the nationwide lecturers’ strike entered its third day.
Mombasa Polytechnic University College had already postponed its graduation ceremony that was scheduled for Thursday.
After the return-to-work talks on Thursday, COTU Deputy Secretary General George Muchai urged the workers to report back to their work station in line with the terms of the return to work formula.
“They should go back to work immediately after this meeting so that universities can resume operations,” Muchai firmly stated.
University staff suspended their intended strike over the same matter in April 2010 but are hopeful of fruitful negotiations this time round.
UASU wants the pay of a professor raised to a maximum of Sh400, 000, up from the current 165,000 a month, and a new house allowance of Sh95, 000 up from Sh64,000.
Under the proposed salary structure an associate professor’s salary would rise to Sh298,000, moving from Sh135,000 and a house allowance of Sh85,000 against Sh58,000.
A senior lecturer would earn Sh221,000 and a house allowance of Sh75,000, lecturer Sh165,000 and a house allowance of Sh70,000 and an assistant lecturer Sh121,000 plus Sh55,000 as housing allowance.
Similarly, pay of a graduate assistant lecturer – the lowest paid – should rise to Sh78,000 and Sh45,000 for housing from the current Sh40,000 and Sh30,000 for housing, a month.