Nurses union defy presidential order to end strike

Written By: Beth Nyaga
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Nurses union defy presidential order to end strike
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The Kenya National Union of Nurses has vowed to continue with their strike currently affecting 13 counties until their demands are met.

The Union officials say the industrial action can only be called off by their respective county public service boards who are their legitimate employer.

Nurses in nine more counties are set to begin their strike on Monday if the respective county governments fail to honor the contentious 2017 Return to Work Agreement.

The Union Secretary General, Seth Panyako says nurses in 13 counties are on strike and beginning Monday next week their colleagues in nine other counties will follow suit.

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If the threat by the nurses union officials is anything to go by, then from next week medical services will be paralyzed in a total of 24 counties.

The industrial action is in phases and started on Monday 4th this year with nurses in seven counties downing tools.

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In a contentious deal signed between them, national and county governments in November 2017 nurses were to get an increase in their uniform allowance of 15,000 shillings in the 2018/2019 financial year from the previous 10,000 shillings.

The allowance was expected to increase to 25,000 in the 2020/2021 financial year.

The nursing allowance was also to be increased to 23,000 shillings in the 2018/2019 financial year and finally to 30,000 shillings in the 2020/2021 financial year.

This comes shortly after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all striking nurses to report to work by Friday the 15th of this month by 8 am or face the sack.

Addressing the nation at Statehouse Nairobi after a meeting with the council of governors, the president further directed the National Police Service to take stern action against anyone who will intimidate or harass nurses who choose to resume their duties on Friday.

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“All nurses should resume duty with immediate effect and in any case not later than Friday the 15th of February 2019 at 8:00 a.m…. accordingly, any nurse who fails to report to work as directed above will be dismissed by the County Governments and the Ministry of Health” he warned.

“The respective County Governments will, therefore, be at liberty to undertake any action, as they deem appropriate, against personnel who fail to resume duty as directed by the Employment and Labour Relations Court” he added.

While defending the government position the president termed the nurses strike illegal citing a court order suspending their strike for 60 days to allow for any negotiation and reconciliation meetings by the Ministry of Labour, Council of Governors and the Kenya National Union of Nurses.

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“It is therefore greatly disheartening to learn that some of our nurses have decided to engage in unlawful withdrawal of their labour against the determination of the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which suspended any industrial action for sixty days pending conciliation meetings between the County Governments, Ministry of Health and the Nurses’ Union. Moreover, it is disheartening to hear officials of the Nurses Union declare that they will not obey these Court Orders”, he noted.

The president said Kenya has a clear development agenda and an investment destination, and he will not allow unlawful industrial action to derail the current developmental momentum.

“Our Constitution and various labour laws, while granting the right to picket and participate in strikes, also provide for the process of determining public service remuneration by the Salaries Remuneration Commission whose advice has equally been disregarded” said the Head of State.

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