Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
Lecturers are ready to call off their strike within the next 24 hours if the government gives them a counter offer, the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has said.
The lecturers, who went on strike last week to push for a deal on the contentious 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), showed a change of mind even as they revealed universities have declined to remit statutory deductions worth millions of shillings.
Uasu officials led by chairman Muga K’Olale said some institutions are almost being declared insolvent because they cannot meet financial obligations, including remittance of statutory deductions such as National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), pension and sacco contributions, while medical schemes are on deathbed.
He said the worst hit institutions include Moi University which has not remitted Sh598 million and another Sh117 million meant for Provident Fund, Egerton University (Sh122 million sacco contribution) and Technical University of Kenya (Sh15 million NHIF deductions).
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Education, the Uasu officials asked senators to intervene and have the government bail out universities to ensure learning resumes.
“It is a sad affair that universities are deducting money from our members yet they do not remit the same,” K’Olale told the committee chaired by Christopher Langat (Bomet).
The officials further claimed the Ministry of Education and Vice Chancellors of the various universities have made it impossible for them to engage in any talks on the CBA.
They regretted that for any deal to be reached, they have to go on strike. “Whenever university workers are due for salary reviews, we must strike.
Since 2004, we have never had a CBA signed without resorting to industrial action,” said K’Olale Wesonga said while they are pushing for the signing and implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA, 25 universities are yet to implement the 2013-2017 CBA.
Only University of Nairobi, Pwani University, Maseno University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University have fully implemented the CBA.
The committee said it would summon Education Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed, her Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich, Salaries and Remuneration Commission representatives and Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative (IPUCC) to deliberate the way forward.
Lagat also promised to summon administrators of universities that have failed to remit deductions. Nominated Senator Agnes Zani emphasised the need for all stakeholders to sit at one table to negotiate, saying learners are bearing the brunt of the go-slow.