Matiang'i orders university councils to withhold February salaries for striking lecturers

The directive by the CS comes barely a week after the University of Nairobi wrote a memo to striking doctors reminding them that there will be no salary for February.

In a letter earlier this month, Matiang’i directed university councils and managements to withhold the salaries for February for striking lecturers, terming the strike illegal. He urged universities to take stringent disciplinary action against dons.

“I concur with the council and management decision in your respective universities to take disciplinary measures against those participating in the illegal strike,” Matiang’i said in a letter copied to all Vice Chancellors.

He added: “Such disciplinary action should include non-payment of salaries beginning with the month of February 2017 to any staff who is participating in the illegal industrial action.”

The CS blamed the union officials on the longer strike, as he argued that the union officials should not have advised members to stay away from work.

The University Academic Staff Union (UASU) officials, however, have refuted, claiming that the ministry is to blame for the mess.

“I maintain that the respective unions should not illegally withhold their labour in the negotiations,” Matiang’i noted.

Stalled talks

After the collapse of talks between university staff unions and the Inter Public Universities Consultative Council Forum (IPUCCF) on 10th last month after unions rejected a Sh10 billion offer by the government, the CS has consistently maintained that negotiations were being undertaken by various university councils in a bid to find a solution to the strike which begun on January 18.

On their part, however, UASU officials have always dismissed Matiang’i’s position on numerous occasions terming the Sh10 billion offer inadequate and one that they were unwilling to accept. They are now pushing for an additional Sh4 billion to bring the strike to an end, what the government says cannot meet.

Through a petition to the parliament on February 14, UASU said that it had informed the IPUCCF that the offer which they said amounted to a 3.2 and 1.6 per cent increment on basic salary and house allowance respectively was not in line with their demands for the 2013-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), asking instead to be awarded a 30 and 20 per cent pay rise for the two salary components.

“Let nobody ever imagine that we will forego this CBA. Let nobody ever imagine that we’ll take a paltry Sh10 billion,” UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said mid-February while addressing union members before matching to the Parliament, National Treasury and the Ministry of Education to present a petition.

Mass action

The salary withholding comes in the wake of a planned massive action by the university staff unions across the country slated for today, Wednesday.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students thronged the busy Moi Avenue at the heart of Nairobi, marching to parliament to seek an immediate end of the strike so that learning can resume. Several university lecture halls have remained empty, as the battle for a salary hike takes shape, since January 17th.

In an interview, Prof Peter Mbithi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, the oldest in the country, assured students that no one will be charged a higher fee, as the university’s senate will be meeting to draft a new timetable, immediately the strike comes to an end.

“We will not charge any additional fee for those who had paid. But if you did not pay, you will be required to pay.”

“Then later, after the strike ends, we shall have a senate meeting to redraft the timetable for the semester,” Prof Mbithi said.

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