KENYA: Lecturer strike looms

Lecturers at public universities in Kenya have threatened to strike in an attempt to compel the government to implement a 15% salary increase negotiated in June this year. The University Academic Staff Union, or UASU, said members from four of the country's seven public universities had already voted to strike during a series of union meetings.

The more than 5,000 lecturers are up in arms over a delay in implementing the 15% rise - part of a total 45% pay hike - agreed between the UASU and government's representative Inter-Public University Councils Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) in June.

The two sides reportedly brokered a deal that pledged to lecturers a 45% pay increase staggered in two phases.

The first phase was a 30% basic salary increase starting from 30 June, as provided for by the Industrial Court in September 2008, following a 2006-08 collective bargaining agreement. This has been implemented by all public universities.

The bone of contention is an agreed further 15% increase for 2008-10, which was to have been implemented from 1 July this year and backdated to 1 July 2008.

Besides the salary adjustments, lecturers were also awarded a 7.5% housing allowance after the successful sixth round of negotiations on 18 June 2009.

Earlier, the UASU had insisted on a minimum salary increase of 100%. But according to Dr Sammy Kubasu, its national chairman, the union accepted the lower offer "in good faith considering the country's economic difficulties".

"But if the government cannot fulfil its promise we will down tools because it seems that is the only language it really understands," Kubasu said.

Before the 30% pay rise effected at the end of June, an assistant lecturer earned a basic salary of between Kenyan Shillings 36,510 (US$480) and Shs 52,122 (US$685), and a lecturer from Shs 43,960 to Shs 57,430. Senior lecturers earned between Shs 48,870 and Shs 65,267, and associate professors between Shs 63,199 and Shs 81,828. Professors' salaries were from Shs 67,336 to Shs 96,168.

Academics also earned housing allowances in the range of Shs 36,536 (assistant lecturers), Shs 43,645 (lecturers), Shs 46,500 (senior lecturers), Shs 50,000 (associate professors) and Shs 53,375 (professors).

According to UASU officials, lecturers from the universities of Maseno, Moi, Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta have already endorsed the strike option. The expectation is that academics from the universities of Nairobi, Masinde Muliro and Egerton will follow suit.