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Salary talks hit a snag as lecturers reject offer

Thursday September 26 2019

STRIKING LECTURERS

Public universities union members call for the implementation of their salaries agreement, during a demonstration in Nairobi on April 18, 2018. PHOTO | ANDREW KILONZI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

OUMA WANZALA
By OUMA WANZALA
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Talks between lecturers and the government hit a snag after the dons rejected a counter-offer that was between 23 and 25 percent over two years.

Universities management chief negotiator Prof Isaac Mbeche, who is also the acting vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi, put the figure at Sh7 billion, adding that with future pension being factored in, the figure will rise to Sh10 billion, but the 9,000 lecturers insisted on an increase of between 39 and 41 percent over four years.

ANNUAL INCREASE

The talks stalled after the government also failed to factor in a four percent annual increase from 2017 to 2021 as well as failing to give lecturers an increase in house allowance.

The government also ignored two years — 2017 and 2018 — and instead indicated that the implementation period be effective from July 1, 2019.

Lecturers’ concerns were that CBAs last four years and wondered why universities had reduced the period from four years to two years.

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This now sets the stage for another battle in court between lecturers and universities. On Monday, the Labour ministry failed to table an economic report as had been directed by the court on how much lecturers should earn.

The government is proposing that an assistant lecturer with pay of between Sh83,598 and Sh118,348 take home Sh94,281 to Sh134,523 while next year the pay should be between Sh97,842 and Sh139,915.

It also wants a graduate assistant who takes home between Sh46,978 and Sh66,978 to earn between Sh55,041 and Sh78,659 effective July this year, while next year they want between Sh57,729 and Sh82,552.

LABOUR COURT

The government also wants individual university councils and their respective Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) chapters to initiate and conclude structured negotiations or other terms and conditions of service

However, lecturers want new salaries of between Sh406,050 and Sh635,097 while senior lecturers should take home between Sh546,163 and Sh857,384.

Uasu also wanted associate professors to earn Sh740,020 and Sh1.157,666 while professors’ pay was to be between Sh999,030 and Sh1,562,625.

Yesterday, Uasu Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga said talks had stalled due to lack of seriousness by the government, insisting that it is now up to the labour court to decide.

“We have done our best but it appears the government is not serious at all,” he said. “We have not had a house allowance increase for the last eight years yet the government is denying us the increase again.”

ALLOWANCES

He also wondered how the government had determined the increase without an economic report, insisting that lecturers deserve better salary raises.

But Prof Mbeche expressed confidence that talks will go on. “We will meet next week to discuss this issues so that our lecturers can get a better pay increase,” he said.

Lecturers in their proposal had indicated that graduate assistant earn between Sh195, 656 and Sh306,006 while should take home between Sh300,775 and Sh470, 444.

Lecturers, union said should have new salaries of between Sh406,050 and Sh635,097 while senior lecturers should now take home between Sh546,163 and Sh857,384.

Uasu also wanted associate professors earn Sh740,020 and Sh1.157,666 while professors pay was to be between Sh999,030 and Sh1,562,625.

On house allowance, Uasu wanted a professor currently getting Sh73, 715 to get Sh250, 000, associate professor getting Sh66, 344 to be given new house allowance of Sh190, 000 while senior lecturer Sh160, 000 instead of the current 58,972.

PUBLIC SECTOR

The union also wanted a lecturer house allowance to be increased from Sh55, 286 to Sh145, 000, assistant lecturer from Sh51, 601 to Sh135, 000 and graduate assistant from Sh51, 601 to Sh130, 000.

“The rates are comparable to the rates paid to certain public sector employees (for example, the legislators currently earn a house allowance of Sh250,000 per month on top of a housing grant which professors have no access to),” said Dr Wasonga.

Last year, lecturers went on strike to demand salary increase without a success.

Last month, World Bank released a report which indicated that strike by lecturers were affecting learning in schools.

PERFORMANCE

The policy report dubbed:” Improving Higher Education Performance in Kenya” said frequent strikes affecting the campuses of Kenyan public universities contribute to their low performance.

“Almost every year, the public universities stop functioning between a few days and several months as a result of salary disputes between the lecturers’ union and the government,” reads the report.

It adds that in 2017, for example, the students lost almost an entire trimester because of a 54-day strike by the lecturers.

The lecturers went on strike again for 38 days at the end of that same year and again in March 2018 adding that it is the students who suffer most from these disruptions.