16 December 2013

Kenya: Governors to Withhold Pay, Hire New Health Staff

Photo: Capital FM
Kenyatta National Hospital (file photo): Health workers involved in the ongoing strike not to receive their pay.

Nairobi — The Council of Governors has categorically stated that all health personnel who did not report for duty after a court order will not earn salaries for days they boycotted work.

The council termed the strike illegal saying all those who did not report to work since the issuance of the court order on December 11 will be treated as having absconded duty by both the National and County Governments.

Addressing the media on Monday, the Council Chairman Isaac Ruto said that County Governments were already putting in place mechanisms to hire fresh health personnel to offer services in the counties.

"All those who would want to work with County Governments are encouraged to apply for the positions that will be advertised," he stated.

He appealed to members of the public to apply for the positions.

"The demands being made by health workers are not related to labour relations but rather to constitutional matters which calls for a constitutional amendment," he stated.

He pointed out that, "According to Section 138 of County Government Act, the terms and conditions of service of health workers are safeguard and cannot be altered to their disadvantage but can only be improved."

Section 138 of the Constitution states that, "Any public officer appointed by the Public Service Commission in exercise of its constitutional powers and functions before the coming to effect of this Act and is serving in a county on the date of the constitution of that county government shall be deemed to be in the service of the county government on secondment from national government with their terms of service as at that date."

Clause 1(a) of the section further states that, "the officer's term of service including remuneration, allowances and pension or other benefits shall not be altered to the officer's disadvantage."

"We cannot reverse gains of devolution as provided for in the Constitution or law through an illegal strike," he added.

He said that most health workers were scared of supervision likely to occur under county governments unlike in their previous status.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists' Union (KMPDU) Secretary General however said they were not intimidated by Governors' move.

He maintained that despite the decision reached by governors, the health workers were going to push on, until their concerns were addressed.

During the media brief, the Cabinet Secretary for health James Macharia accused health workers of frustrating Government efforts to solve their issues long before the strike.

He said that already the Government had drafted a health policy which has also been presented to the health unions awaiting their input.

"We have to ask ourselves whether that strike was genuine especially given the timing of the strike. You are aware it was two days before all of us went for the 50th anniversary despite the fact that what they were asking was still in place," he observed.

He said it was wrong for health workers to break a court order and yet they needed more laws to guard them.

"We shall hand them over to their rightful employer who is the County Governor. We have engaged everybody to make sure we get a solution... obviously they were not keen. If the child keeps on breaking glasses everywhere, you will take the baby back to the mother," he stated.

He revealed that a health bill will be ready by end of February next year.

On Monday, the Industrial Court extended orders prohibiting health workers in public hospitals from going on strike until December 24.

The order comes after the Attorney General through his representatives Paul Ojwang and Peter Ngugi applied for extension of the barring orders saying that they were unable to serve the Kenya National Union of Nurses, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, Kenya Health Professionals Union, Seth Panyako (Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General), Matendechero Sultani (KMPDU Secretary General) and Moses Lore - who are listed as respondents in the case - with the previous order due to public holidays last week.

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