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February 17, 2019

Huge pay gaps in counties as SRC sits on report

Doctors issue strike notice over SCR job review
Doctors issue strike notice over SCR job review

DETAILS have emerged of glaring salary disparities among counties' staff, even as the Salaries and Remuneration Committee sits on a report that could go a long way to bridge the gaps.

The Star has established various cadres — especially in the health sector — are worlds apart in terms of pay, despite similar academic qualifications.

Human resource experts warn the huge salary and allowance gaps could fuel strikes as workers push for enhanced pay.

Pay structures obtained by the Star from select health sector workers reveal details of the pay discrepancies, with certain staff cadres earning twice the monthly gross salary of their colleagues.

Staff with diploma qualifications, regardless of the sector, join the service at job group H but their salaries and allowances differ significantly.

For instance, a nurse joining with a diploma starts with a basic salary of Sh23,780, while a civil, mechanical or electrical technician earns Sh24,380 monthly basic salary.

The nurses also pocket a Sh10,000 annual uniform allowance. They are currently agitating for that allowance to be increased to Sh25,000, as negotiated in their CBA in 2017.

However, while the engineers at diploma level pocket a Sh3,200 housing allowance and Sh4,000 commuter allowance, the nurses receive an array of enhanced allowances.

Veterinary officers with diploma qualifications earn a basic salary of Sh24,000 and Sh3,200 and Sh4,000 as house and commuter allowances, respectively. The gross monthly pay for veterinary, electrical, mechanical and civil technicians is Sh31,000.

Nurses and clinical officers receive other allowances over and above what their counterparts earn.

They are entitled to Sh20,000 extraneous allowance, Sh20,000 practicing allowance and Sh3,850 risk allowance. They also get commuter allowance of Sh4,000 and house allowance of Sh3,200.

This means that a diploma holder nurse or clinical officer earns about Sh74,830 per month, more than twice what their technician colleagues take home.

A graduate engineer and architect earns a monthly basic salary of Sh35,260, a housing allowance of Sh7,500 and a commuter allowance of Sh5,000.

This brings their monthly gross pay to Sh47,760, a far cry from what nurses and clinical officers take home.

Further compounding the pay disparities, a laboratory technician holding a diploma enters the service at job group H with a starting pay of Sh23,780.

They are entitled to a house allowance of Sh3,200, commuter allowance of Sh4,000 and risk allowance of Sh3,850.

If the 2017 Collective Bargain Agreement between the Kenya Union of Nurses and the counties is implemented, the nursing allowance will increase to Sh30,000, up from Sh20,000 and the uniform allowance will be pegged at Sh25,000 a month.

Tabulations by the SRC show that the nursing allowance alone will cost counties Sh2.9 billion and the national government Sh146 million to implement the CBA.

The uniform allowance ill cost counties Sh365 million, while the state will spend Sh383 million.

Apart from medical officer, specialists, and dentists, the other cadre of health officers includes nurses, clinical officers, dental technologists, oral health workers, public health technicians, pharmacy technologists, laboratory technologists, orthopaedic technologists, nutritionists, radiologists and physiotherapists.

Others are occupational therapists, health record technicians, plaster technicians, medical engineers and engineering technicians and community health workers.

Despite the blatant pay disparities, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission that conducted a job evaluation to harmonise the salaries and allowances is delaying on its final report.

The SRC, mandated to set and review salaries and benefits of all civil servants, was expected to release the report a few weeks ago but it was shelved under unclear circumstances.

The report is considered key in addressing pay disparities among county staff following the latest nurses' strike. It is feared a ripple-effect could paralyse the counties.

The Labour and Industrial Court suspended the nurses strike for 60 days, pending conciliatory efforts between the nurses’ union and labour experts appointed by Labour CS Ukur Yattani.

The Star is informed the SRC held a stormy crisis meeting with the Council of Governors on Tuesday. It was meant to discuss the withheld report, which recommends sweeping changes.

That meeting informed the SRC's decision to ask counties not to strike any pay increment deals without SRC input.

The SRC warned that unstructured awards of salary and other allowances is not sustainable and could lead to disharmony and a spiralling across the sector.

"As a result of the continuous clamour for enhancement of allowances, nurses are currently remunerated higher than comparable grades within the public service," the SRC said in a statement.

Read: SRC job evaluation reveals counties top in number of skilled jobs

"Consequently, payment of the above allowances will result in inequity in terms of remuneration for comparable jobs in the health sector and in the entire public service. This may give rise to demands for harmonisation within the health sector and possibly the entire public service, further pushing up the public wage bill," the SRC said.

During Tuesday’ meeting, the SRC is said to have accused some governors of entering into binding pay deals with employees without involving it, in what it said could soon spark a nationwide spreading of demands.

It is said the SRC was categorically against any pay hikes, considering ongoing salary harmonisation as well as the country’s ballooning wage bill of more than Sh600 billion annually.

An SRC commissioner, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the allowances for staff working at the counties were illegal.

“This is what we are grappling with as a commission. We are concerned counties introduced irregular allowances especially for nurses for political reasons,” he said.

He warned, “What is happening in the health sector is messy. There is political games going on that could impact negatively on job evaluation. Counties must know that when they give in to nurses they should prepare for a ripple effect from other cadres of employees.”

Yesterday CoG chairman Wycliffe Oparanya protested against delay in releasing the job evaluation report by the SRC, saying failure to conclude the document in time has triggered pay increase demands among county workers.

“The SRC has been dillydallying with this report. It is important that it is realised so salaries are harmonised across all county employees,” Oparanya said.

“All county staff must have all salaries and allowances harmonised with other employees, according to the SRC requirements. As counties we don’t set salaries and benefits for our employees. That's the SRC's work," he said.

Chairman for the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Peterson Wachira yesterday admitted there are glaring pay disparities at the counties, saying his union would call a strike if CBA negotiations don't not resume.

“It is true there are disparities. Some staff inherited from local authorities earn more than those who joined county governments. There are huge discrepancies in the allowances that must be addressed,” he told the Star.

Fears of a ripple effect have gripped the counties after clinical officers issued a 14-day strike notice if CBA talks stall.

Also Read: SRC asks counties to tame huge wage bill

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