NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 20 – University workers on Thursday night agreed to call off their two-week strike after they signed a Sh7.8 billion deal with the government.
The University Academic Staff Union (UASU) and the Universities Non-Teaching Staff Union (UNTESU) agreed that the deal by the government would to be paid out in two phases and backdated to July 2010.
While presiding over the signing of the return to work formula, Labour Minister John Munyes called on all other striking workers to embrace the spirit of dialogue and also to put the interests of the country first.
“I want to appeal to other unions – KNUT and KUPPET – to borrow leaf from what we have done and achieved; to look at the interests of the child. This (Thursday) afternoon we could hardly pass by the University of Nairobi (due to riots), but I hope that this signing restores normalcy,” he said.
The unions agreed on a three year (2010-2013) Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which will see the salaries of all university staff increased by 33.1 percent and house allowance up by 14.2 percent.
Their return to work formula also insulated staff who participated in last year’s strike and the current one from being subject to any disciplinary action.
Although the CBA was agreed upon earlier during the day, the unions headed to the Ministry of Labour to start negotiations on a favorable return to work formula fearing that their members would be victimized.
The agreement was signed on condition that the government institutes and completes the parliamentary process of making available the Sh3.9 billion payable in phase one by November 30.
The Treasury in a letter from Finance Minister Njeru Githae had warned that the government could not afford releasing the Sh7.8 billion in this financial year arguing the additional expenditures through additional revenue would mean that the government increases Income, Excise and Value Added taxes.
Githae who wrote to Higher Education Minister Margaret Kamar also warned that the option of financing the deal through budget cuts in development expenditure would have a direct impact in the projected economic growth.
The minister opposed the financing through borrowing saying it would not only be “in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act but also imprudent.”
The signing of the agreement might have ended the strike but it did nothing to mend the bitter relationship between the unions and the universities management.
UASU Secretary General Muga K’Olale used the occasion to lash out at the management for entrenching ethnicity in their respective universities and failing to engage the unions meaningfully and in good time.
In his 10 minute address directed a university vice chancellors present, K’Olale called for a change in attitude by the university managers.
“The strike we have had should serve as a lesson for the government and the future government to the university management… this strike was not a moral issue it was a legal constitutional issue; our rights had been violated and were being forced to accept impunity. That we were not able to negotiate for four years shows that there were spirited efforts to introduce anarchy in public universities,” he firmly stated.
“We will go back to work and we hope that we will feel engaged in constructive collaboration to bestow all kinds of benefits to public universities… students and the staff. We want to call upon the university executives to change their attitudes. Some universities are being paralyzed by ethnicity,” he added.
“Why is it that every time we want our salaries reviewed we have to strike so that at the end of it you start to frantically run around looking for money? Are you normal?” he asked the chancellors.
The Vice Chairman of the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF), James Tuitoek called on the dons to move with speed and recover the two weeks lost during the strike.