, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 27 – The Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) has turned down a request by the government to suspend the ongoing lecturers strike for a month to pave way for negotiations.
Speaking after a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Friday, UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said the union had resolved to continue with the strike until such a time the 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is negotiated, registered and its implementation schedule agreed upon.
“The NEC has rejected the statement of intention by the government,” he said accompanied by union officials adding, “They have voted that the strike continues until the 2013-2017 CBA is negotiated, signed, registered and implemented.”
On Thursday, Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi asked lectures unions to suspend the strike, to facilitate negotiations between lectures’ unions and the Inter Public Universities Consultative Council Forum (IPUCCF) due to commence on Monday.
“We have placed before them (unions) a request that we have them suspend any industrial action until March 1, to enable us complete negotiations on the CBA,” Matiangi said.
UASU officials however asked for time to consult decision making organs of the union before suspending the strike, adding that it was not within their power to do so.
“We’ve had constructive discussions on the 2013-2017 CBA and as a union we’ve had what the stakeholders have requested and we’re going to give these request a considerable thought,” said Wasonga during a joint press briefing with CS Matiangi on Thursday adding, “We’re bound by our Constitution and therefore we’re going to activate the organs of the union and we’ll respond appropriately.”
Friday’s announcement however complicates matters for over 500,000 students enrolled in public universities as it remains unclear whether the IPUCCF will agree to engage the lectures through a Joint Negotiations Committee (JNC), given the fact that the UASU has refused to suspend the strike.
According to Wasonga, the unions are not ready to engage in any negotiation process void of counter offers by the government, adding that the three per cent pay rise by the IPUCCF amounted to treating university dons with contempt.
“Dons do not eat statements of intentions,” he said. “We want CBA, a reasonable counter offer. If you think we’re going to call off the strike with a paltry 3 percent the forget it.”
Since the strike begun two weeks ago, UASU has consistently pointed an accusing finger at the IPUCCF who they blamed for failing to engage them in a negotiation process since they submitted their proposals in 2013 upon the expiry of the 2010-2012 CBA.
Sister unions – Kenya University Staff Union (KUSU) and Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotel, Educational and Allied (KUDHEA) workers union – have also maintained a similar stand as fears of losing the 2013-2017 CBA cycle begin to gain prominence.
The next CBA cycle for the lectures runs between 2017-2021.