BOYCOTT ON

Striking North Rift health workers defy sack threats

Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary Chebii says they will not back off.

In Summary

• Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago two days ago said striking health workers will not receive their salaries starting this January unless they resume work unconditionally.

• Nurses and clinical officers on strike are demanding promotions, risk allowances, insurance cover and work-related benefits before they resume duty. 

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago helps a pupil put on a mask at Kandie Primary School in Eldoret on January 12, 2021.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago helps a pupil put on a mask at Kandie Primary School in Eldoret on January 12, 2021.
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

Striking health workers in the North Rift have defied threats by governors to sack them if they do not resume work unconditionally.

Medical services remain paralysed in more than 700 public health facilities in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and West Pokot.

Nurses and clinical officers on strike are demanding promotions, risk allowances, insurance cover and work-related benefits before they resume duty. The boycott started more than a month ago.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago two days ago said striking health workers will not receive their salaries starting this January unless they resume work unconditionally.

He said the courts had declared the strike illegal, hence the workers also risk losing their jobs.

“As governors, we will not allow the health workers to blackmail us with their unrealistic demands. They have to resume work immediately,” Mandago said.

But Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary Joseph Chebii said the government and counties had ignored them for long and they will not give up until a comprehensive insurance is put in place for them, among other demands.

Chebii accused the counties and the national government of taking too long to deal with their grievances, despite the suffering by Kenyans due to lack of medical services in hospitals during the strike.

Mandago, however, accused the medical staff of taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to push their selfish agenda. The county chief said the workers had initially been demanding PPE but when they were provided the equipment they shifted their demands and started agitating for better terms and conditions of service.

Mandago said health workers cannot be treated differently from other civil servants, adding that their demands will cause serious disparities in salaries and allowances in the civil service.

“We cannot be increasing salaries and allowances for health workers every year. We have civil servants in other departments, including myself, who also want better salaries but when it's not possible we have to understand,” he said.

The health workers have been making demands every year and Uasin Gishu county will not be party to any deals to favour them while sidelining other workers, Mandago added.

He faulted the national government for meeting with some of their unions to agree on a return-to-work formula without involving the counties.

The staff in other departments have stagnated in the same positions for more than 20 years because of lack of funds to effect promotions, he said.

Mandago, however, said that the county had set aside Sh13 million for promotions of all workers and not just health workers.

“We will effect promotions but will look at all departments starting with those who had stagnated for more than 20 years. Health workers should not tell us to only address their demands,” he said, adding that other civil servants were also doing important work for the country.

Uasin Gishu has more than 500 health workers who are on strike, including nurses, clinical officers and laboratory technicians. Mandago wants them to resume work immediately or face dire consequences.