Labor Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani

Kenya:Nurses stalemate on despite President’s order

By Samuel Ouma | @journalist_27

Labor Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani
Labor Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani

Services in several public hospitals across the country have been paralyzed for the second week in a row after nurses downed their tools demanding the implementation of Collective Bargain Agreement signed almost two years ago.

After a five month nurses’ strike that took place in some parts of 2016 and early 2017, nurses, county and national governments strike a deal that would see them get a salary increment of Kshs.3,000 ($30) by the end of July and Kshs.3,500 ($35) in 2019 and 2020.  Nurses. They also expected Kshs.5, 000 ($50) uniform allowances.

Failure by the two governments to honor the agreement one year and four months since it was signed has forced the medical personnel from various counties to boycott their duties. Civilians are severely affected. They have turned to private hospitals despite the exorbitant fees charged by the owners.

In an attempt to halt the strike, Council of Governors last week went Court to challenge the legitimacy of the strike.  In the ruling, Employment and Labour Relations Court suspended the slowdown for sixty days to allow conciliation process to be concluded by parties.

“The court has today suspended the strike for a period of 60 days and has ordered both parties to attend the conciliation process initiated by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani. Thereafter, the parties will be required to file a report in court,” read the statement.

Nurses ignored the injunctions and maintained that the government must honour the return to work agreement signed in November 2, 2017.

“We are not going to settle for anything less, nurses are demanding for the full implementation of the return to work formula,” reiterated the Kenya Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako.

On Wednesday, February 13, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave nurses an ultimatum of two days to report to back to work or face the sack. The President further directed police to arrest any nurse who will try to harass their colleagues who will resume work.

“All nurses should resume duty with immediate effect and in any case not later than Friday at 8pm. Any nurse who fails to report to work as directed above will be dismissed by the County Governments and the Ministry of Health,” he said.

The ultimatum ended on Friday, February 15, but the nurses’ strike is ongoing. The go-slow is expected to be severe next week after the union boss announced that more nurses will join their colleagues to agitate for their rights.

Mr. Panyako vowed that they will stay put until all their demands are met. He said President has no authority to call off the strike noting it is the mandate of county public service board.

“They will not report to work. We have instructed them to stay indoors so that they are not accused of doing anything wrong,” said Panyako.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli castigated Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattan for failing to reach an agreement with the embattled nurses. He labeled him as inexperienced and incompetent individual who knows little about labour related issues and decision making.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Labour is inexperienced and should consult widely before making any proposal or decision regarding labour laws,” noted Atwoli.

He said President has no authority to step in to solve the stalemate when the Cabinet Secretary who should handle labour related issues is still in the office. He called on the Head of State to show him the door to pave way for an experienced person.

“He has shown no commitment to solve the ongoing nurses strike compelling the president to step in. The President should not be involved in such small matters of solving workers labour related issues where there is a minister charged with that responsibility seated in office, what is he doing? He should be fired,” said Atwoli.






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