Nurses' strike on as Minstry, CoG meeting bares no fruits

A nurse (Right) holds up a board noting the failure by the county to insure vehicles in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County where the nurses staged a sit in at the County Government offices. The nurses strike was called by the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Secretary General Seth Panyako. 07-02-2019. [PHOTO: KEVIN TUNOI]

A meeting between county bosses and officials of the Ministry of Health directed striking nurses to end their work boycott citing a court order as warring parties stuck to their hard line positions.

A statement released after the meeting directed the striking nurses in about 22 counties to go back to work, without a possibility of them being paid the allowances they are demanding.

These are the counties that have neither paid nor committed in writing that they will pay their nurses.

The statement, signed by both Council of Governors Chair Wycliffe Oparanya and Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki asked the nurses to give room to the conciliation committee which was constituted by Labour CS Ukur Yatani to resolve the strike.

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Also, the nurses are required to obey an earlier court order that suspended the strike for 60 days.

“County governments and Ministry are asking all nurses to immediately report back to work in compliance with the Court order of February 5, 2019 and allow the conciliation process to complete without extraneous interference,” read the statement.

This latest reluctance of government comes as the Senate Committee in charge of Labour is expected today to meet officials from the Ministry of Health, Salaries and Remuneration(SRC), Controller of Budget, Council of Governors and Kenya National Union of Nurses(Knun).

On Wednesday, the Committee led by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja summoned the officials who are expected to explain why some counties have not been able to pay nurses what was agreed and signatures appended.

To halt the 2017 five-month long strike of nurses, a deal was reached on November 2, 2017 that nurses will have Sh10,000 increment in their Sh20,000 monthly nursing services allowance and an increment of Sh15,000 annually to their Sh10,000 uniform allowance.

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These allowances, to avoid budget constraints, were spread in three financial years of 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21. The first payment was supposed to be made in June 2018.

However, there has been push and pull between the CoG and SRC if counties should pay nurses. Some counties, like Nairobi, however have agreed to pay and committed through letters while others have claimed that SRC is yet to update the Integrated Payroll Personell Database(IPPD).

“These counties are just afraid that if they pay nurses, then other cadres of health workers will also demand the same allowances. But it is only nurses who wear uniforms and perform nursing duties,” said Knun Deputy Secretary General Maurice Opetu.

The Senate was informed that three of the counties which paid the allowances -Mombasa, Machakos and Migori-had to resort to manual vouchers to pay the allowances after SRC not giving them an approval.

“Sh20,000 allowance is still very little money. Majority of Kenyans have never interacted with doctors, it is nurses they depend on.If counties diverted the money, they should  come and tell us," said Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo jnr.

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Wycliffe OparanyaCouncil of GovernorsCS Ukur YataniSicily KariukiStriking nursesMeeting