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Kenya govt closer to ending university lecturers' strike after deal

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The Kenyan government has struck a deal with one of two unions representing striking university lecturers, the union said, bringing the government closer to ending an embarrassing standoff ahead of elections in August.

A second union will continue the strike, which has shut down classes in many public universities since January. Doctors in public hospitals have also been on strike since December.

The strikes come amid fierce criticism of the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking reelection in August when the East African nation holds presidential and parliamentary elections.

Lawmakers are investigating allegations that tens of millions of dollars have gone missing from Kenya's Ministry of Health and the National Youth Service.

Doctors and university lecturers say if the government cracked down on corruption, there would be more money to pay public servants.

The University Academic Staff Union (UASU) and the Kenya University Staff Union (KASU) went on strike in January..

UASU, which has members in 33 universities, had demanded a 400 percent pay rise. It has now agreed to a 17.5 percent increase in basic pay and 3.9 percent increase in housing allowance, it said in a statement on Monday.

"UASU assures our members that this settlement was the best possible deal under prevailing circumstances," it said.

Lecturers' basic salaries are 69,000-200,000 shillings before allowances. A newly-qualified doctor typically earns about 156,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,520) a month.

The government argues it cannot afford to pay more. But Kenyan members of parliament are among the most highly paid in the world, taking home around 1.2 million Kenyan shillings ($11,500) per month, including allowances, according to Justine Musila of the parliamentary watchdog website Mzalendo.

The average annual income per head for Kenyans is $1,340, World Bank data shows.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Katharine Houreld and Andrew Roche)

 

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