Kenya: Striking Nairobi Clinicians Opt for Talks, Want Board to Resign

Clinical officers in Nairobi County on Monday suspended their strike for 30 days to allow talks with the county on demands including promotions.

Tom Nyakaba, the city's secretary of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, said Governor Mike Sonko granted their union audience as requested.

"He listened to our grievances. From the agreement we [reached], there is light at the end of the tunnel as far resolving the dispute is concerned," he told reports outside City Hall.

THE DEMANDS

The clinical officers have been agitating for promotions, which they say are long overdue.

They also want those who have been working on contract basis, in a project called Capacity Kenya, to be employed permanently.

Mr Nyakaba added that they want a comprehensive medical cover and for more workers to be hired to improve the public healthcare system.

He noted that the county and the union agreed that once the African Air Rescue (AAR) cover expired, the clinical officers would be provided with a comprehensive National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover.

'ILEGAL BOARD'

Despite the development, the union official hit out at city Public Service Board chairman Philip Kungu, terming his entire team an embarrassment to county government workers.

Mr Nyakaba asked Mr Kungu and the entire team to resign, accusing them of being in office illegally. He did not give details on this claim but promised a press statement which had not been sent by press time.

"It is a big shame that Mr Kungu and the entire board are sitting in office yet the team is not properly constituted. Do not continue to waste public resources by sitting in an office [with your team] not been properly constituted," he said.

CAREER GROWTH

The secretary accused the board of turning the blind eye to the welfare of workers in the county, alleging it is only interested in employing staff, not in their career development.

Mr Nyakaba threatened to lead the health workers in flushing the board members out of their offices, further saying they lacked knowledge on how to go about their duties.

He also accused a number of unnamed colleagues in the county health facilities of betrayal.

"We are disappointed by the actions of our senior colleagues who have always avoided meetings where we deliberate on issues affecting our welfare. They are the biggest stumbling blocks to our efforts to find a lasting solution to our grievances. We will soon come for them," he said.

Echoing the secretary's views, branch chair Reuben Raboso appealed to members to attend in large numbers, meetings on better working conditions.

PSB'S RESPONSE

Reached for comment on these claims against the board, Mr Kungu told the Nation that the clinicians' concerns were not unique to them as they were being raised by a workforce of about 13,000 people.

"We are handling the issue of promotions using procedures stipulated in law. The officers should be patient," he said in a phone interview.

"Their grievances are not just a board issue as they cut across several departments. For instance, the issue of medical coverage is not in the board's docket."

Mr Kungu added that he had not read the clinical officers' statement so he could not give a comprehensive response.

"All I can say for now is that the contentious issues are being handled by the board and other county departments," he said.

CONCILIATION

County Secretary Kahiga Waititu, who attended the clinical officers' media briefing, confirmed that they had had talks.

"Nairobi County remains committed to the principle of staff being our biggest asset. We have agreed on a return-to-work formula and will work on a way forward," said Ms Waititu.

She thanked union officials for heeding the county's call to return to work, terming the move a positive step in ensuring patients in Nairobi do not suffer the consequences of industrial action.

Striking a conciliatory note, the county secretary said the government was aware that all was not well in the clinicians' sub-sector.

"We appreciate that you have grievances and a right to be heard. As part of our commitment to delivering services to Nairobi residents, we will listen to you and do our best to resolve them," she told them.

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