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A STRIKE A DAY KEEPS THE GOVERNMENT AWAKE

UASU Secretary General, Muga K'olale

Learning in the majority of Kenya’s 18 public universities in Kenya has finally been paralysed after the University lecturers downed their tools (chalk presumably) on Wednesday in a dispute over salary reviews (Daily Nation: ‘Lecturers set to down tools’). The dissident dons are demanding restructuring of their salaries and harmonisation of allowances as they say was agreed between the Unions and the Inter-Public University Councils’ Consultative Forum (IPUCCF) in June 2009.

The University’s Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary-General, Muga K’Olale, called for all scheduled exams and graduation ceremonies to be suspended and the strike has brought academic programmes to a halt.

“We will not relent until we are given a convincing counter-offer [from the Ministry of Higher Education],” Mr K’Olale said, adding that the 7,000 lecturers will remain on strike “as long as it takes” after an industrial court declared the strike illegal.

The strike follows after failed efforts to have the government address lecturers’ grievances and comes two months after teachers went on strike as schools resumed classes for the final term of the year. That strike, called by the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT), went on for a week and was only called off after the government stepped in and gave in to the teacher’s demands.

MEDICAL STAFF STRIKE TOO

Medical Service Minister, Anyang' Nyong'o

The university lecturers strike is not the only problem the government has to worry about as staff at the Kenyatta National Hospital also went on strike the same day. 4,000 workers downed their tools (in their case stethoscopes, scalpels, syringes and mops) demanding five months’ worth of unpaid commuter allowances be paid, amounting to some Sh230 million.

Patients were left unattended however those in critical areas such as the Intensive Care Unit, labour wards, and the renal unit, which houses dialysis machines for kidney patients were taken care of.

“Doctors and the entire hospital staff have a right to strike. As leaders, we need to come up with solutions for using the limited resources we have to ensure we have quality health services for all”, said Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o.

As reported in The Standard, the workers, under their umbrella body, Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha), had on Tuesday given the Government a 24-hour ultimatum to pay the hospital staff their allowances.

“We are working with other senior employees who have received their dues” union Secretary General Albert Njeru said, adding that the union gave a strike notice to the government prior to their action, but the latter failed to heed their calls.

In such disputes it is always difficult to know who is in the right and who in the wrong, normally it’s a bit of both which either side you look at but it does seem that once again the government side is either dragging its feet (the negotiations with the university lecturers, for example, have been going on since 2009) or failing to meet established agreements. Whether this arises from incompetence or belligerence is hard to tell.

Whatever the reason, as long as this mode of management maintains the Kenya Forum can understand why some state employees have come to believe that the only way to make the government address their plight, is by going on strike.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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