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MESHING STAFF, UNIONS AND MANAGEMENT STRENGTHENS EFFECTIVENESS IN THE OPERATIONS OF UNIVERSITIES, RESEARCHERS SAY

Meshing staff, unions and management in a strengthened working relationship and shared vision increases effectiveness in the operations of Universities. On the other hand, failure to  integrate the three will result in chaotic management of Universities ocassioned by ethnicity,  nepotism, delayed promotions, breach of bargaining agreements, unconducive working environment, bureaucracy, bad policies, and lack of commitment to ‘union matters’. These are the findings of a  study by Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) involving close to 165 staff which were shared  yesterday, Tuesday 19th October 2021 in a workshop at the Bishop Stam Pastoral Centre, Kakamega County.

The research team comprised of Prof. Charles Mutai (Principal Investigator), Prof. Peter Bukhala, Prof. Stanley Omuterema, Mr. Robinson Oduma, Dr. Caroline Wekullo, Dr. Angeline Savala, Dr. Lucy Mandilla, Dr. Pamela Buhere, Dr. Jairus Odawa, Dr. Bernard  Omogo and Dr. Joyce Kasili.

Speaking during the workshop, which he officially opened, the Vice Chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Prof. Solomon Shibairo encouraged participants to  create a culture of a positive University that is attractive to students and with the ability to transform industry as well as the communities around.


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“Unions should engage management for the needs of their members. MMUST management is willing to work together with unions to benefit and grow members,” said Prof.  Shibairo, adding that  unionism has achieved a lot over the years.The VC  informed participants at the dissemination workshop that as a University, MMUST is determined that all cadres of staff feel appreciated and experience mobility in their careers.

MMUST’s DVC, Planning, Research and Innovation, Prof. Charles Mutai underscored the importance of findings of such research which would certainly be useful in educating both unions and University managements in MMUST and elsewhere. “For a University to move forward, it is important that the Unions, staff and University management work together. Universities cannot grow without the support of the unions,”observed Prof. Mutai


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DVC Academic and Student Affairs Prof. Hussein Golicha, who also had the honour of officially closing the workshop, pointed out that this research on the relationship between unions and management is a very unique one whose findings should be implemented to boost harmonious co-existence among staff of all cadres at MMUST. During the dissemination workshop eminent Professor of education and Director, Institute of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Studies, Prof. John O. Shiundu, pointed out that Universities that want to progress require the input of their Unions.

The Director, Research and Postgraduate Support, Prof. Peter Bukhala who has been instrumental in championing the funding of institutional research at MMUST, said that these findings are important for the institution.“Unions are key stakeholders and very critical contributors to the Union-management  partnerships for the efficient operation of Universities,” stated Prof.Bukhala.

Other notable presentations which were made by various scholars included; Background to the Project presented by Prof. Peter Bukhala, Current University Management Challenges - Dr. Bernard  Omogo, Key Findings and Demographic information - Prof. Stanley Omuterema, Sources of Conflicts - Dr. Caroline Wekullo, Strategies for improving policy, legal and related governance issues - Mr. Robinson Oduma, Improving institutional culture at the workplace - Dr. Jairus Odawa, Improving Communication as a strategy of strengthening the working relationship between unions and management - Dr. Lucy Mandilla, Improving inclusivity at the workplace -Dr. Pamela Buhere,  and Recommendations - Dr. Joyce Kasili.

In one of the presentations, Dr. Bernard Omogo, who is also the current Secretary General of UASU MMUST Chapter, noted that conflicts between unions and University management is one of the greatest challenges in institutions of higher learning. “There is a need for University managers to realize that institutions where employees are treated well are attractive to talented and skilled employees,” said Dr. Omogo.

Dr. Jairus Odawa, chairman of UASU MMUST Chapter, reiterated that institutional culture can be created and moulded to develop the University through the participation of staff, unions and University management. Further, good institutional culture once communicated to all staff will steer Universities to greatness. “We need to change our organizational culture,” he said.

Concurring with the other researchers, Mr. Robinson Oduma advised that shared vision by the unions and management is a good strategy for improving governance issues.

“Let Universities urgently work at improving inclusivity at the work place by ensuring that employees feel valued and included in University operations at all levels,” added Dr. Pamela Buhere. The same sentiments were echoed by Dr. Lucy Mandillah, who presented findings revealing that poor communication, leadership style, lack of commitment to union matters,  partisan service delivery and personal interests have significant effects on staff-union relationships.

Other stakeholders who took part in the workshop included Director Corporate Communications and Marketing Dr. Lydia Anyonje, and Union leaders. These were Jacob Musisi, Gregory Lidzaga, Meshack Onzere and Agnes Amugamwa from Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) representing administrative staff from grade 5-14,Tofiko Ludofic, Martin Nabwire, Ptrick Imbiakha and Stella Wanyonyi from Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions, Hospitals and Allied workers (KUDHEIHA).

Clearly, Universities  must recognize the place of unions in the growth of the University and the welfare of staff. They need to carry out more capacity building for staff, Unions and UMB. We need to publish a manual of best practices engagement between unions and management to maintain harmony. However, we need policies to enable proper guidance and structuring of union-management operations and relations.

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 By: Dr. Lydia AnyonjeWilberforce Shiundu