The frequency of industrial action in the country is worrying. It is easy to conclude that Kenya has become a country of strikes mainly because of systemic failure and lack of political goodwill in addressing some of the concerns raised by workers across the board.
A doctors' strike that began towards the end of 2016 has hardly been resolved and university academic staff have indicated they will be downing their tools effective today after talks over pay collapsed.
Nurses across the counties have variously been on strike demanding better pay and working conditions, yet there is very little indication that anything is being done to address their grievances. The knee-jerk reaction to these strikes by governors, especially, is not helping matters.
While doctors have stuck to their guns demanding full implementation of a signed 2013 Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement that the Government is reluctant to honour, the University Academic Staff’s grievances also date back to the same period.
They demand a new 2013/2017 Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement. Lecturers went on strike in 2003, 2004, 2012 and 2014. It leaves a lot to imagination why the Government does not commit to address their long standing grievances centred mostly on salary increases and pay harmonisation across the institutions.
Too many strikes together are impacting negatively on the economy even as they give fodder to politicians during this election year. We cannot run away from the truth that the issues being raised will be politicised for selfish gain at the expense of the ordinary Kenyan who suffers the brunt.
The country’s economy might not be able to support the hefty pay demands. This puts the onus on the Government to come out clearly and state the country’s economic health status rather than paint a picture of a performing economy then proceed to renege on negotiated agreements.