State, workers' pay tensions cloud function

President William Ruto and Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Pay your taxes. That was the clarion call that echoed in this year’s Labour Day celebrations as the overburdened Kenyan worker was reminded of this civic duty amidst depressing economic conditions.

The message, however, comes when President William Ruto and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) are not seeing eye to eye over unmet pay demands.

This frosty relationship has seen doctors and clinical officers vacate their places of work for almost two months, with other public servants announcing weekly protests in solidarity.

The protests are about an unfulfilled collective bargaining agreement (CBA) the health workers signed with their respective employers (national and county governments).

But at Uhuru Gardens on Wednesday, there was no change of heart as top union leaders and the President called on the medics to reconsider their stand.

“We will rectify (the remaining two issues of the 17) later once the economy improves,” Ruto implored.

Ruto’s administration slashed intern doctors’ pay, contrary to a 2017-2021 CBA that was signed and deposited in the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

This move saw the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union rally its members to down their stethoscopes in a strike that was joined by Kenya Union of Clinical Officers. On Tuesday, the Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUC-Ke) led by Secretary-General Charles Mukhwaya rallied all public service unions to join the strike through weekly protests scheduled every Tuesday.

“I want to appeal to the government and doctors to give social dialogue a chance to resolve the ongoing strike to alleviate the suffering of Kenyans,” said Federation of Kenya Employers Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo.

Constructive dialogue

It was the same call from Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore whose speech pointed out the need for constructive dialogue drawing tripartite stakeholders as crucial for decent work.

“I call upon healthcare workers and employers to reconsider their position for a win-win outcome. We need normalcy restored in the health sector,” she said.

Away from doctors and clinical officers, a strike is in the offing from junior secondary school intern teachers who are demanding permanent and pensionable positions from their employer, Teachers Service Commission, before the schools reopen next week. 

Teaches in Kericho and Narok counties have already issued a strike notice through the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers. 

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