11 February 2013

Kenya: Nurses Call Strike Off After Deal

NORMAL operations are set to resume today in public hospitals following a return-to-work formula arbitrated by the Industrial Court.

Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako yesterday welcomed the ruling and called on all health workers to report to work.

The nurses' strike that lasted for more than two months had paralysed operations in public hospitals, with most facilities operating with skeleton staff.

"We expect all public hospitals in the country to be up and running tomorrow and that services will resume as normal," Panyako said yesterday.

Speaking on the phone, Panyako praised the Thursday ruling and said it had won the confidence and trust of the public: "We must obey court orders and are more happy now with the rulings."

According to the agreement, the government is required to release the nurses' December and January salaries and reabsorb all employees who had been dismissed for absconding duty.

In December, the government declared the standoff illegal and slapped disciplinary measures on the striking workforce, which included withholding of its salaries and random transfers to regions deemed as hardship.

"There shall be no victimisation and everyone will be required to report back to their previous work stations," Panyako said.

He said he is confident the government will honour its part of the bargain and ensure that all dues are paid by February 14, seven days after the court ruling.

The nurses downed tools on December 3 demanding the registration of KNUN and payment of monthly allowances amounting to more than Sh130,000.

The Ministry of Labour, through the National Labour Board, which is chaired by Ekuru Aukot, has stood its ground and declined to register KNUN, claiming the nurses are adequately represented by the Union of Kenya Civil Servants.

The nurses have however trashed UKCS as an amorphous body which does not champion for their cause, and have called on government to desist from remitting their monthly dues to the union.

Yesterday Panyako accused Aukot and COTU secretary general, Francis Atwoli as being a stumbling block in the fight for nurses' welfare.

"Nurses' rights continue being violated and all they [Aukot and Atwoli] can do is to continue opposing our legal right to belong to a union," he said.

He regretted the continued oppression and intimidation of nurses, especially in private hospitals, saying a union will help address their plights.

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