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October 23, 2017

Nurses strike crumbling, Nanok says 60 per cent back to work

Members of the Kenya National Union of Nurses march in Nairobi to demand the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement for better pay and improved working conditions, September 11,2017. /ENOS TECHE
Members of the Kenya National Union of Nurses march in Nairobi to demand the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement for better pay and improved working conditions, September 11,2017. /ENOS TECHE

Most nurses have resumed work, according to the latest figures compiled by county governments. 

Names of those working are compiled daily and the trend shows the four-month strike is crumbling.

The counties and the national government have employed about 40,000 nurses including those on short-term contracts.

The latest report was released by the Council of Governors on Thursday. It shows only about 40 per cent or 17,000 nurses are still on strike.  

The strike has officially ended in counties including Embu, Nairobi, Mandera, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Tharaka Nithi and Bomet.

"More than 60 per cent of nurses countrywide are now back to work and we expect more to resume work," said council chairman Josphat Nanok who is in charge of Turkana.

Read: Marsabit nurses end strike, respond to malaria outbreak after 30 deaths

Also read: Nandi nurses end strike after Sang gives promotions, three months' pay

Health workers in Tharaka Nithi and Embu ended the strike this week after reaching a return-to-work deal with the respective governments. 

In Embu, only Joseph Ngwasi, the branch secretary general and vice chairman of the Kenya National Union of Nurses, is still striking.

KNUN's national officials have refused to officially call off the strike but say they are ready for talks.

"We appeal to President Kenyatta to help end this crisis," said embattled secretary general Seth Panyako.

Panyako, Ngwasi, deputy secretary general Maurice Opetu, treasurer Agnes Munderu and official Asha Ali face possible jail terms for disobeying the Labour court's September 1 order to call off the strike.

"I reassure all nurses in Kenya that there is nothing different. We have been on strike and are still on strike," Panyako said on Monday.

The five unionists called the strike on June 5, and shunned negotiations with the government, demanding the immediate registration of a draft collective bargaining agreement. 

However, the government recently told the union to negotiate with the respective counties once all nurses return to work.

The nurses' union is currently split in the middle. Those who have resumed work are largely aligned to KNUN chairman John Bii, who favours negotiations with the government.

"We blame Panyako for the mess. Were it not for him, nurses countrywide would already be enjoying their CBA," he said. 

Last week, Biiy petitioned the Labour Court to jail the five embattled officials for six months for refusing to stop the strike.

Bii's lawyer Bitange Mageto said: "They have been declaring through the press how they will not obey the same order, an act which brought the dignity of the court to ridicule and disrepute, thereby undermining the authority of the court."

Also read: Governors call crisis meeting to end biting nurses' strike

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