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Health Services To Be Paralysed As Nurses Strike Begins On Monday

Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary-General Seth Panyako addresses journalists on September 20, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) has stood its ground on the strike slotted for Monday, February 4.

The Union’s  General Secretary Seth Panyako Saturday said that if a return-to-work formula is not fully implemented, then they will have no choice but to down tools, except for nurses in Mombasa, Migori and Machakos counties who have been paid allowances as per the agreement.

“We will stand our ground, we will not call off the strike and this is going to be the worst strike in the history of Kenya,” said Panyako.

“The government (had) only Sunday to avert this strike. If Salaries and Remuneration Commission continues to play cat and mouse games, then the strike will proceed as planned.”

On February 4, he strike will start in West Pokot, Kisumu, Nairobi, Kisii, Taita-Taveta, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Wajir, Nyeri and Kitui counties.

On February 6, Kiambu, Homa Bay and Marsabit counties will join in the strike while Kwale, Garissa, Samburu, Kirinyaga and Embu nurses will down tools on February 11.

Murang’a, Busia, Nakuru and Siaya join their colleagues on February 18. “A total of 24 counties will be affected,” said Panyako.

Eighteen others are yet to receive the notice, having shown commitment to meet the return-to-work agreement and a one-month grace period to comply.

They include Baringo, Laikipia, Meru, Bungoma, Nyamira, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kericho, Kilifi, Lamu, Nandi, Narok, Makueni, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, Bomet and Tana River.

The strike was suspended in Mandera, Tharaka Nithi and Vihiga counties.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection, Mr Ukur Yatani, urged the nurses union to suspend the planned strike.

The CS said he has appointed a conciliation committee that will look into the issues raised and file a report within 30 days.

He said the issue at hand was “non-implementation of a comprehensive return-to-work agreement that was entered into between parties and witnessed by key representatives of nurses, Council of Governors and Ministry of Health officials on November 2, 2017.

“Acknowledging that the health sector provides critical, essential services and noting that their disruption will not only be injurious to the well-being of citizens but also cause a serious security threat, it is imperative that all efforts be made to insulate the sector from interruptions …” said the minister in a statement.

“In view of conformity with the provision of sections 70 (2) of the Labour Relations Act, I have appointed a Conciliation Committee to be chaired by Mr Harun Mwaura … it will assist the parties to mediate, amicably resolve the impasse, and file a report to me within 30 days,” he said.

Responding to the impending strike, the Council of Governors chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya assured the Ministry, nurses and the public of their commitment to work with the Coalition Committee for expeditious conclusion of the health issue.

“We thank the Ministry for appointing a committee to assist both levels of government resolve this impasse. The step will mitigate any service delivery interruption to Kenyans,” said Mr Oparanya.

The union has accused the Ministry of Labour of frustrating implementation of the agreement by placing preconditions that must be met by county governments before it authorises the payments.

“When we issued our strike notices last November, the Minister kept quiet and only appointed a reconciliator last Friday. We find these games played by the ministry as tricks meant to sabotage President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. As a union, we shall not accept them,” said Panyako.