19 February 2019

Kenya: Headcount for Nurses in Counties Starts as Salaries Stopped

A headcount of health workers in counties where nurses are on strike is on, with some receiving show cause letters.

According to a February 18 letter by the Council of Governors, 250 of the 296 striking nurses in Garissa have received the letters.

NEGOTIATIONS

Nurses defied a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to report to work by Friday morning.

Mr Kenyatta directed the Health Ministry and devolved governments to dismiss nurses who defy order.

Nurses in Taita-Taveta, Embu and Homa Bay counties have also received letters.

In Samburu, the letters were issued followed by a salary stoppage notice. Only 10 nurses out of the 228 striking ones reported to duty.

Out of the 353 striking nurses in West Pokot County, only 88 who went to work on Friday will get their February pay.

Only four nurses have gone back to work, out of the 366 on strike in Taita-Taveta County.

The situation is different in Elgeyo-Marakwet as all nurses are back to work.

In Trans Nzoia, only nine are back to work. Just three out of 160 reported to the referral hospital in Kitale. Rural hospitals have no nurses.

In Kisumu, 137 nurses are back to work while 686 still on strike. Four nurses reported to work yesterday.

In Embu, only 130 nurses have reported to work. They have since called off the strike "to give negotiations a chance".

At Pumwani Hospital, Nairobi all 97 nurses belonging to the Kenya National Union of Nurses have reported to work while 45 who are affiliated to the County Workers Union are still on strike.

So far, nurses in 19 counties are on strike. The strike began yesterday in Kakamega, Nakuru, Tana River, Narok, Bomet, Busia and Siaya.

The nurses strike in Uasin Gishu County is expected to start today.

The governor's council directed county governments to stop deducting union fee.

ALLOWANCES

In the Friday letter marked "urgent" Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya instructed county bosses not to remit money to the Kenya National Union of Nurses.

The letter said it would no longer be the responsibility of county governments to deduct union dues from the health workers pay and remit to the unions.

"The full salary should be paid to the nurses. They should remit the money to their unions if they so wish," Mr Oparanya said.

"The purpose of this letter is, therefore, to inform the county governments of the above provision of law and to recommend that counties adopt it urgently."

The letter was addressed to governors, county secretaries, health executives and finance executives as well as county attorneys.

Knun Secretary-General Seth Panyako gave Mr Oparanya seven days to withdraw the letter "or he faces contempt proceedings".

The striking nurses are demanding uniform and nursing service allowances as they were promised in a November 2, 2017 deal.

Nurses earn Sh20,000 every month in service allowance. It is to be increased to Sh30,000 over three years from 2017.

The uniform allowance was raised to Sh10,000.

Mr Panyako maintained that the strike is on.

Meanwhile, governors have had to call meetings with Knun in a bid to stop nurses strikes.

Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso held a meeting with Knun and county health officials Monday.

RESIGNED

The meeting came barely a day after county health chief officer Zeddy Chepkorir failed to reach an agreement with nurses.

Health executive Joseph Sitonik told the Nation that the authorities would know the way forward after a court ruling.

The county's 259 striking nurses in 134 hospitals joined their colleagues in other counties to protest their employers' failure to implement the salary deal.

Union officials claimed that specialist nurses have resigned and sought employment at Moi Teaching and Referral and other hospitals.

Longisa Referral hospital which has 102 nurses is the worst affected.

Others affected are Tegat, Sigor, Cheptalal, Ndanai and Koiwa sub county hospitals.

The nurses are emboldened in their resolve due to the support they have been receiving from Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and other leaders.

Mr Atwoli blamed Mr Oparanya "for misleading President Kenyatta over the ongoing nurses' strike.

"He knows very well his colleagues signed the CBA to pay the nurses and the honourable thing to do at the moment is to honour it," Mr Atwoli said.

Reporting by Angela Oketch, Shaban Makokha, Vitalis Kimutai and Gaitano Pessa

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