Mombasa county health workers call off strike

Mombasa County Health workers boycott work on March 7, 2022. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Health workers in Mombasa have called off their strike that had entered its fourth day after the Employment and Labour Relations Court ordered them to resume work.

On Thursday, Justice Agnes Kitiku directed that the health workers resume work.

“An interim order of injunction is hereby issued retraining the health workers (respondents) and their members from carrying on with the strike action that commenced on March 6, 2022, in terms of seven-day notice dated February 28, 2022, and should forthwith resume their duties,” read Justice Kitiku’s orders.

She directed that the orders and application be served upon the health workers union and the matter be mentioned on March 23.

Mombasa county moved to court on March 8 seeking orders to stop the health workers from continuing with the strike that commenced on March 7 over salary dues for January and February and five months’ statutory deductions.

The county sued Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), Kenya Health Professional Union (KHPU), Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO), Kenya National Union of Pharmaceutical Technology (KNUPT) and Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN).

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union Mombasa Branch Chair Hassan Mkuche in a letter asked all the members to obey the order and return to work.

“We understand that court orders have the impelling force of the rule of law and foundational constitutional values that our unions respect for the purpose of preserving the ever fragile fabric of constitutional democracy,” said Mkuche.

“On this note, we hereby suspend the industrial action served through our strike notice as we await courts deliberations on the matter on March 23,” said Mkuche.

He said while their bare minimum of February salary and remittance of all arrears on statutory and other deductions have not been met, members should report to work by Friday at 8:00 am as they engage with the legal teams in handling the matter in court.

He said the county failed to put in writing their promise to pay all the pending dues within 10 days.

“The county has promised to pay all the February salaries and all the remittances within the 10 days but they refused to put it down in writing which put us in a very hard position,” said Mkuche.

On March 8, the county confirmed paying the health workers the January salary and the October, November loan deductions as they promised to pay the rest.

According to Mombasa county government Secretary Joab Tumbo, the county had disbursed the payment of January to over 1,000 health workers and statutory remittances as of November 2021.

However, the workers said their bank accounts have remained frozen because of unremitted statutory loans and insurance. 

Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Mombasa branch secretary Emily Mursoi said they are unable to access the funds because of outstanding loans owed to banks.

Mursoi said they cannot access the salaries unless the county remits the November, December, January, February and March loans and insurance.

“The banks have taken over our accounts over the unremitted loans and insurance.  It is like the county has not paid the January salary. We have no money for transport and food, we cannot work on empty stomachs too,’ said Mursoi.