Public universities last-ditch bid to avert a strike by lecturers failed yesterday after union officials rejected a pay offer. The Inter-Public Universities Council Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) chairman Prof James Tuitoek said last evening at a press briefing: "We have given a counter-proposals and it is up to the unions to tells us when they want to be back on the negotiations table, but all in our staff and lecturers in our universities should be on duty tomorrow (today) as we embark in this negotiations."
Curiously the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotel, Educational Institutions, Hospitals, and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) was the only union present at the evening meeting even though they had not issued a strike notice. Universities Academic Staff Union and Universities Non-Teaching Staff Union told their members today's strike is still on and that they should disregard KUDHEIHA's statement that the strike had been called off.
"Ignore them. As far as UASU and UNTESU are concerned we have no deal and the details of the counter-proposals are not known to us, the use of a union which did not issue a strike notice as a representation of the entire university workforce is an attempt by the university management to scuttle our efforts to have better terms of service to our members. They have done it before, but this time round they wont succeed," UNTESU secretary general Charles Mukhwaya said.
Earlier in the press conference Tuitoek, the vice chancellor of Egerton University, had said he had invited all the unions to the briefing but only KUDHEIHA turned up. "For us we have not seen any invitation from anyone as pertains the strike," Mukhwaya said The lecturers strike today will see the entire education sector in crisis following the Knut strike that started on Monday.
Lecturers join their colleagues in the teaching sector who have been on strike since Monday demanding better pay. UASU secretary general Muga K’Olale and his UNTESU counterpart Mukhwaya said they had been forced to resort to industrial unrest to force government to resume talks on their four year Collective Bargaining Agreements.
“We have been sitting on the negotiation table for over four years. We have two pending CBA that the government and university councils have been dodging. We issued a seven-day strike notice on August 29, which expired on Tuesday. No one has bothered to act on it or even offered us a counter proposal to our demands,” Mukhwaya said.
K’Olale said the two CBA of 2010/2011 and 2012/2014, which have not been finalised, touch on lecturers and universities staff basic salaries and their allowances. Uasu chair Sammy Kubasu said the unions signed a CBA in 2008 with the universities council and the government committing to start negotiations on their pay.
They threatened to strike, after the government's slow response, prompting fresh negotiations in 2009 which have not been concluded. Last year they went on a strike which saw them sign a return-to-work formula that saw a them form a negotiating team. The government side did not however turn up for the talks.
“Ours has been a history of failed promises from our employer and we will no longer tolerate their dishonesty. Let not the members of the public be duped that we unionists go on strike before exhausting negotiations. The government is insensitive to the plight of its workers and unmoved by their cries,” Mukhwaya said. About 15,000 university workers and lecturers from the 19 public universities and their constituents will go on strike paralysing learning for more than 200,0000 regular and self sponsored students.