Court to rule on lecturers' strike on Friday

Wednesday March 18 2020
Strike P

Universities Academic Staff Union Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga, and other union leaders, addresses journalists at the College of Health Sciences, Nairobi, on March 1, 2018, regarding the lecturers' strike. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MAUREEN KAKAH

Lecturers on Friday vowed to continue with their strike even as the Employment and Labour Relations Court said it would rule on whether to suspend it next week.

While appearing before Justice Onesmus Makau on Friday, the Universities Academic Staff Union accused the institutions of failing to table a counter- proposal on the 2017-21 collective bargaining agreement.

Through its lawyer Titus Koceyo, Uasu accused the universities of subjecting lecturers to three return-to-work formulas while failing to show seriousness by presenting a counter-offer to be discussed by a negotiating team.

“I would like to draw the attention of this court that even in the pleadings filed in this case by the universities, there is no counter proposal attached,” Mr Koceyo said.

“The correct position is that universities have never had any counter proposal to what we presented to form the basis of concluding the CBA negotiations.

"In the absence of a counter-proposal, there was nothing for a conciliator to resolve, hence the need for a seven-day strike notice. The action by lecturers does not violate any law.”

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ELECTIONS

But according to the government, the negotiations were hampered by last year’s two elections, hence the deadline set for January 31 for completing the talks could not be reached.

The government said the strike was premature and urged the court to declare it illegal.

The Education and Labour ministries told the court that the underlying factor was getting back to the negotiating table and reach an agreement.

“Lecturers have to participate in the conciliation for a good reason. The strike was premature. Proper procedure was not followed and it should be declared illegal,” the State said.

The universities through their lawyer Ruth Kirwa argued that lecturers dismissed the procedure for obtaining the counter-offer and described the strike as "creating an atmosphere under which negotiations cannot be held".

KUPPET CASE

She said the government was willing to commit to giving a counter-proposal when due process is followed, and told lecturers to call off "the unprotected strike”.

The court said it would issue a ruling by Friday on whether to grant temporary orders with regard to the strike.

Meanwhile, the court will also hear and determine the dispute between Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers and the Teachers Service Commission over the transfer of members to rival Kenya National Union of Teachers.

Justice Roselyn Aburili issued the directive on Friday, saying the case had been filed at the High Court, which had no jurisdiction to handle matters of unions and employers.