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How lecturers were forced back to class without salary deal

University lecturers were forced to give up their 78-day strike and resume work without a cent through sheer coercion and intimidation and threats of dismissal, it has emerged.

Although the 9,000 lecturers in 31 public universities had vowed to hold on to their work boycott until they received a substantial counter offer to their Sh38 billion four-year salary proposal, they signed a return-to-work formula on Thursday night to allow for further negotiations.

Learning is now expected to fully resume on Monday as the universities rush to adjust their academic calendars to cover up for lost time.

Interviews with some of the lecturers reveal that university administrators approached some of them individually and ordered them to sign commitment letters to return to work with the assurance of security in an arrangement that saw Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) officials in various chapters sidelined.

Those who signed the deal were assured of their salaries since March and that they will not be victimised — an attractive offer that saw most of them go for it rather than get evicted from university houses.

SUSPENDED

Others were threatened with outright dismissal and 35 of them at the University of Nairobi were suspended, while 1,200 missed their March salaries a move that forced most of them to return to class.

The universities also deployed student leaders to call press conferences threatening their lecturers with ejection from the institutions if they did not end the strike.

Emboldened by the lecturers’ response, universities such as Kenyatta, Moi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Technical University of Kenya recalled their students two weeks ago.

Some of the universities outside major towns however ignored the strike with Masai Mara concluding its academic year without any hitch.

In addition to ending their strike, the lecturers will now have to withdraw a case at the High Court challenging a fresh job evaluation plan by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

SALARY OFFER

On Monday, the lecturers were given a 1.75 per cent salary offer which translates to Sh3.6 billion for four years, meaning that the least paid worker will get a yearly increase of Sh53 and the highest — a professor —  an increase of Sh1,000 a year.

However, the lecturers rejected the offer and they will now wait for a new proposal from the government.

On Thursday, Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said they had called off the strike for the sake of their 600,000 learners.

Dr Wasonga urged universities to take the talks seriously since lecturers were facing several challenges including lack of medication after the collapse of medical schemes in most institutions.

“Uasu is proud of the solidarity, commitment, discipline and firm resolve shown by our members during the period of industrial action,” said Dr Wasonga.

Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative forum chairman Paul Kanyari said the parties will engage in “genuine talks” to forestall further strikes.