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Clinical officers blame governors as talks collapse

 Kenya Union of Clinical Officers National Chairman Peterson Wachira addresses the press in Nairobi on April 5th 2024. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Talks to end the strike by clinical officers, which has virtually paralysed operations in public health facilities, have collapsed.

And just like in the case with the doctors’ strike, the the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) is now blaming the Council of Governors for derailing the talks.

“Last week, on Friday, we received a letter from a conciliator appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Labour, inviting KUCO, the Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Council of Governors to a conciliation meeting. Regrettably, while KUCO and MoH honoured this invitation, the CoG failed to attend. This failure to participate in the conciliation meeting, coupled with contempt of a court order issued since November of last year, mandating the resumption of negotiations, reflects a glaring failure of leadership within the CoG,” said a statement issued by the KUCO Secretary General, George Gibore.

"The Council of Governors, which is the pivotal institution in the implementation of devolution, government guidelines, policies and statutes in the counties, has negated its constitutional advisory and guidance mandate to the individual counties as required under the Intergovernmental Relations Act Laws," he added.

Gibore said that failure by governors to come to the negotiation table "gives clinical officers reason to continue with their strike."

“The persistent disregard for the welfare and rights of clinical officers by the CoG is indicative of a broader issue of impunity within the public sector, perpetuated by state officers. This highlights the necessity for KUCO to continue advocating for the rights and well-being of its members,” he further said. 

The union also blamed CoG for abdicating their responsibility to address the issues affecting clinical officers, despite the existence of a court order that was issued in October last year. The order, which was later extended in March this year, pushed the parties to resume negotiations.

Sources indicated senior KUCO officials held meetings with Public Health and Professional Standards Principal Secretary Mary Muriuki since Monday, and the two sides had agreed to widen the talks by involving county governments since some of the issues raised by the clinical officers could only be handled by the Council of Governors. But on the agreed day, which was yesterday, no one from the governors’ body attended the session. 

The union reiterated that the ongoing strike, which commenced on Monday will continue until the employer addresses all grievances outlined in the strike notice served to the government, including delayed salary payments, lack of promotions, and the failure to implement approved staff establishments.

KUCO also refuted claims made by the Trans-Nzoia County government that the union had reached an agreement with local clinical officers to call off the strike, describing the  move as an "act of desperation" to undermine their collective efforts and divide them. 

"Let me categorically state that there is no such Return-to-Work formula that has been signed, and our strike remains ongoing," Gibore emphasised.

He added: "The claims made in the letter are misleading and an act of desperation by the County Government."

The union urged all clinical officers in Trans Nzoia to "remain vigilant and not be swayed by misleading information" and vowed to continue pursuing their demands through lawful means until a satisfactory resolution is reached.

Additionally, KUCO condemned statements made by the acting Director General of Health, Dr Patrick Amoth that the clinical officer profession as outdated and should be phased out. The union called these remarks "unacceptable", adding Dr Amoth is not fit to lead the ministry.

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