Universities have been asked not to increase house allowance for their staff and instead focus on raising their salaries in a bid to end their month-long strike.
In an advisory opinion to universities, dated February 16 and copied to Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Salaries and Remuneration Commission CEO Anne Gitau said house allowance should be retained at the current rate.
“The Sh10 billion be spread equally without a compounding factor over a four-year cycle of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) to meet the cost of review for basic salaries and employees’ pension bill,” said Ms Gitau.
But, university staff took issue with the commission’s directive, terming it unfair.
Kenya University Staff Union secretary-general Charles Mukhwaya said it was wrong for the commission to block house allowance, because for the past four years, the cost of housing had gone up. “We must look at the effect of increased housing and it cannot be at the current rate,” said Dr Mukhwaya.
Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) secretary-general Constantine Wasonga said the lecturers will take nothing less than 120 per cent basic salary raise and 80 per cent house allowance increase for four years.
MINIMUM WAGE GUIDELINES
Dr Wasonga said the Sh10 billion offered by the government translated to 3.2 and 1.6 percentage increase in basic salary and house allowance respectively and Sh2 billion would go to the employer as employees’ pension contribution.
Universities have also been directed to ensure that the basic salary for the lowest paid employee complied with the minimum wage guidelines as provided in the law.
“Ensure compliance with internal relativities within the salary structure by addressing equity and parity. In doing so, the compression ratio (difference between the highest and lowest paid) should be maintained at an acceptable ration of not more than 10,” said the CEO.
One of the ways in which to achieve equity, she said, was to award a higher percentage increment at lower salary grades and lower percentage increase at the higher grades.
Once the negotiations are concluded within the guidelines, a university forum led by Prof Isaac Mbeche is to forward the agreed CBA to the commission for issuance of a letter to facilitate the registration at the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
BLOW TO UNION
She warned that officers who approve the use of public funds contrary to the instructions would be liable.
The advisory opinion is a blow to Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers members who signed the CBA with universities last week.
On Wednesday, the lecturers took to the streets to demand the increase as they marched from the University of Nairobi to Jogoo House in Nairobi to present a memorandum to the government.
“Considering that university staff, lecturers and professors are among the worst paid and overworked in the country, the counter offer is grossly below the market value of academic staff,” said Mr Onesmus Mutio, an official of Uasu.
Uasu vice-chairman Joseph Mberia said university staff want Sh17 billion as a counter offer if the strike is to end. “Since the negotiations on Wednesday last week, we were told that a counter offer would be ready in 24hrs, but up until now there is nothing,” he said.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o also added his voice to the lecturers’, saying they were justified.