Third Eye

Strikes should be tools of last resort

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Education CS George Magoha. Photo/PD/File

There are many avenues of resolving disputes between employer and employees.

Dialogue has always been the favoured route to air grievances and seek redress.

However, Labour laws provide for downing of tools as another mechanism out of an employment mire.

The decision to call off the strike by the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu), is a welcome one as it provides the space and time for a conversation between the union and the government.

The strike, which was to commence on Monday August 31, could have put a stop to learning at all 35 public universities, affecting more than 600,000 students. 

The cancellation means students are now able to resume studies as the two parties resolve the pending issues as per the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as the Orders of the Employment And Labour Relations Court.

Among the issues is the stalemate over the implementation of Sh8.8 billion set to benefit a number of unions including Uasu.

The union claims the implementation was done using a skewed formula, resulting in pay disparities.

They also say the money was set to adjust their salary, but only seven of the 35 public institutions have done so. The strike was meant to protest this.

With the calling off of the strike, the two parties will now be in a better position to further the negotiations, and avoid a situation where students, parents get to suffer even more against the backdrop of the pandemic which had interrupted learning last year. 

The impact on the striking staff, on the faculty and learning as well should be in the mind of the parties when having this discussion.

With continuous striking, the reputation of higher learning in the country would be in tatters, which means parents might have to dig deeper in their pockets for alternative institutions either private or international, and for learners this might mean an end to their education.

Worse, demotivated lecturers may not offer the best in instruction, thus impacting the quality of education.

Industrial action has been an avenue for presenting grievances by workers, which indicates the need to come up with a better way of dealing with such grievances.

That this could have been the countless strike under the 2017/2021 CBA, means a solution must be found before the next CBA is formulated. 

Importantly, understanding and addressing grievances before it deteriorates to sit ins and strikes, will go a long way to avoid unnecessary situations.

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