Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has warned lecturers that the government will not negotiate with them if they make good their threat to go on strike next week.

Speaking at Moi Girls’ School in Nairobi, where he monitored Form One admission that kicked off countrywide, the CS warned that if the lecturers down tools, they will have “put the first bottleneck to the negotiation process”.

“We are engaging positively (with the unions). There will be no strike … we’ll not negotiate with a gun at the back of our heads,” Prof Magoha said on Monday as he revealed that he had earlier in the morning met two groups.

More than 9,000 lecturers have threatened to down tools next Monday to protest against failure by the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum to implement a Sh8.8 billion Collective Bargaining Agreement.

While he did not give details, Prof Magoha said the government is “engaging positively” with the lecturers to avert the strike, which would paralyse learning in the public universities.

The strike was called last week by the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu).

Uasu officials Constantine Wasonga (secretary-general) and Muga K’Olale (chair) said they and others earlier held discussions with Prof Magoha and that they would meet again tomorrow.

“We want him to commit himself in writing. Depending on the outcome of our meeting on Wednesday, the National Executive Committee will meet on Friday to give the members direction,” Prof K’Olale told the Nation on phone.

The union earlier insisted that the 2017-2021 CBA they signed was worth Sh13.8 billion whereas the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) put the figure at Sh8.8 billion which, it has emerged, was not factored in the current budget and therefore cannot be paid.

Just before Prof Magoha issued the warning on Monday, the SRC cancelled a press briefing it had called at its headquarters at the last minute, citing “new developments”.

The Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) were also part of the deal.

“It doesn’t make sense to go strike. You go on strike if you think it is going to get something done faster. The government is in the process of solving this, having negotiated and agreed with the unions on what is to be paid,” said the CS.

He added: “The government is capable and willing to pay after thorough due diligence.”

He said his ministry might have to negotiate “with other arms of government” in order to factor in the three past years in the second supplementary budget.