Strike is still on, declares top nurses’ union official

KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako during the signing of a CBA with Tenwek Hospital at the Federation of Kenya Employers offices in Nakuru on February 18, 2019. [Harun Wathari, Standard]
Public health facilities in several counties continued to turn away patients as the nurses strike entered the second week.

Although a few regions were reported to have called off the strike, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) insists that the strike is still on in 18 counties.

In Nakuru, the strike brought operations at the Nakuru County Level Five Hospital to a standstill, with administrators warning other facilities against referring cases to the hospital.

According an administrator who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the facility, the hospital has suspended routine and outpatient services and was only dealing with emergency cases.

The strike has also spread to sub-county health facilities.

Addressing the striking nurses in Nakuru yesterday, KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako accused the Council of Governors (CoG) of failing to implement a Collective Bargaining Agreement signed 2013.

Pursuant to the agreement, all nurses were expected to receive Sh15,000 uniform allowance annually from the current Sh10,000 and Sh23,000 nursing allowance monthly from the current Sh20,000.

The CBA was signed by Council of Governors and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) for implementation by respective county governments.

The employer was expected to pay the allowances from July 1, 2018. However, most of the counties are yet to pay up.

Panyako maintains that the strike is legal and that nurses shall continue pushing for the implementation of the CBA despite sacking threats.

“Nurses in 18 counties are on strike and shall not be intimidated by governors until salaries arrived on as per the CBA are fully implemented,” said Panyako.

In Bomet County, more than 350 nurses drawn from more than 30 health facilities kept off work yesterday. Nurses union officials said their patience with promises made by Governor Joyce Laboso had ran out.

“It has become hide and seek game over our demands,” said KNUN Bomet branch secretary, Vincent Rono.

Governors have since moved to court to stop the strike amid accusations by the union that they were politicising the matter.

On Wednesday last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered counties and the Ministry of Health to sack nurses who defied a directive to return to work, saying the strike had been suspended by the courts.

In Narok nurses led by KNUN branch officials Elkana Misonge (secretary general) Henry Onyancha (chairman) and Simon Maika (organising secretary) have vowed not to return  to work until their grievances are addressed.

Reaching out

“We have tried in vain to reach out to the county government to discuss a return-to-work formula,” said Mr Misonge.

The officials said even before the strike, the region was experiencing an acute nurses shortage.

The strike has however been called off in a number of counties. In Kisii KNUN officials met with senior county officials and agreed to suspend the strike to give room for implementation of the CBA.

In Embu, striking nurses resumed work yesterday after signing a return to work formula with the county government.

Health Executive Jamleck Muturi said the agreement stipulated that the county government would seek clearance from the SRC to pay the dues agreed on.

In Murang'a, nurses suspended the strike for 60 days to give room for talks.

Meanwhile, the nurses union signed a CBA with Tenwek Hospital in Bomet.

[Reports by Mercy Kahenda, Robert Kiplagat, Eric Abuga, Joseph Muchiri and Boniface Gikandi]

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nurses strikeKenya National Union of NursesCouncil of Governors