Operations in public universities were today paralysed as lecturers and non-teaching staff downed their tools over the 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
They vowed to defy the court order which suspended the strike after Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) filed a suit to block the strike.
Employment and Labour Relation Court Justice Hellen Wasilwa extended the orders to allow Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) serve the other parties with their replying affidavit in the case before interparties hearing on January 23.
Uasu national secretary general Constantine Wasonga however accused the universities Forum of abusing the court process by stopping workers from demanding their right.
Speaking to over 3,000 workers at Kenyatta University’s Graduation Square yesterday, Wasonga reiterated that they will that no learning will take place until the government addresses all their grievances.
“We will not go to class this time round until the university council responds and implements the CBA whose term is to expire in less than three months,” he said.
Wasonga accused the Forum of taking the union “round in circles” without offering anything substantial.
“IPUCCF’s role in the negotiations has been nothing but a mockery. Initially they came up with an attractive offer, only to turn around and give us three per cent increment,” said Wasonga. The day one of the strike also interfered with the learning of students of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology as over 2,000 workers joined their colleagues in calling for a better term of service.
Earlier, the picketing workers went round the university and flushed out some of their colleagues who were in their work stations.
The Industrial action also affected University of Nairobi and Technical University of Kenya where workers held demonstrations to demand their rights.
In Egerton University, the more than 1,000 lecturers and non-teaching staff converged at the Graduation Square where they were addressed by union officials.
Egerton Chapter Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) chairman Fred Mwangangi called on the Education Ministry and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to rationalize the existing disparities in wages and allowances payable to the workers before they resume duty.
He termed as unfair the massive stagnation in various cadres among workers who he said must be promoted as they are due for promotions.
Mwangangi accused the government of allowing managers of public universities in the country to violate development priorities at the institutions of higher learning at the expense of workers who he said are critical to efficiency of university programmes.
In solidarity with their colleagues, over 900 Moi University lecturers also boycotted classes as they accused IPUCCF of deliberately delaying the implementation of the CBA which they first submitted in 2012.
Moi University chapter secretary Jack Abok called on Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to interne in the row pitting them and the managements of the 33 public and constituent colleges across the country.
He said there was mass exodus of dons from public universities seeking greener pasture outside the country due to poor terms and condition of services offered locally.
“We are appealing to CS Matiang’i to intervene in the matter to save the situation from getting out of control. The lecturers are willing to sit on the table with the relevant government authorities for negotiations to avert the industrial action from getting worse,” said Abok.
On the other hand, the more than 500 Kisii University branch members affiliated to Kusu marched along Kisii town to push the government increase their salaries and allowances.
The workers who carried placards and twigs marched along the streets and paralyzed transport along the busy Kisii–Kilgoris road as business came to a standstill.
Kisii University, Kusu branch chairman Geoffrey Ratemo said the workers will stay away from their work stations pending a counter proposal from the government.
“Our government is insensitive to the needs of university workers. We are not going to return to work until the parties honor the CBA” noted Ratemo.
The same scenario was also witnessed at the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) as the workers from the two unions maintained that the strike was legal in accordance with article 41 (d) which provides that “everyone has the right to go on strike.”
Uasu TUM branch Treasurer Darius Oloo told lecturers, non-teaching staff and students in the public universities to brace for a “prolonged strike spell” if the government fails to implement their CBA.