Health services in Taita-Taveta County were Tuesday paralysed after hundreds of health workers downed their tools demanding their July salaries and other pending allowances.
The medics, drawn from the four sub-counties, barricaded Governor Granton Samboja’s office in Wundanyi sub-county demanding to be given definite timelines on when their salaries would be paid.
Mr. Reuben Matolo, the secretary general of Kenya National Union of Nurses in the region, said the county workers were barely surviving due to the salary delays that have become a chronic problem since the new administration took power.
He stated that the workers would not resume work until they were paid their salaries.
“We have worked for what we are demanding. The county should tell us where our money is,” he said.
For the first time since devolution, the strike also looped in members from several other unions working in the county including Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya County Government Workers Union, Kenya Health Professionals Society, Union of Civil Servants and Kenya Union of Laboratory Technicians.
The workers vowed to continue staging weekly salary parades until their dues are paid in full.
In a memorandum signed by all officials of the unions, the workers also demanded for timely promotions, stoppage of malicious transfers and timely remittance of third-party deductions like Sacco loans and other statutory deductions.
The strike comes at a time the county government is reeling from an unprecedented row pitting the executive against the county assembly over the Sh 5.3 billion 2019/2020 budget estimates.
In June, Governor Samboja declined to assent to the budget and blamed Members of County Assembly (MCAs) for allocating themselves over Sh 800 million for development.
The governor later launched a widely-publicised exercise to collect signatures for public petition to ask President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the county government.
Most workers disclosed that they have gone without a salary for a month yet they were expected to deliver services.
Mr. John Maghanga, a union official, said workers were subjected to several pecuniary embarrassments due to the delay in remittance of their salaries. He stated that a salary was an inalienable right for all who had rendered their services to the county.
“We are forced to explain to house-helps that we have not been paid and beg them to be patient. How can they understand our pain?” he posed.
The workers’ attempt to present a memorandum with a list of demands to the County Secretary flopped after they discovered no official was present to hear their grievances.
They however managed to give a copy of the memorandum to the Clerk of the county Assembly Mr. Gadiel Maghanga who promised to have their grievances forwarded to the assembly for debate.
Mr. Matolo said over 23 county governments had paid their workers on time yet Taita-Taveta was still insisting it does not have money.
“Where did the other counties get money to pay their workers and ensure service delivery went on smoothly?” he asked.
He added that even when salaries came they were always delayed and often reflected in their accounts by mid-month.
Since June, most operations of the county have gradually ground to a halt owing to the impasse over sharing of county revenue between the National Assembly and the Senate.
While the National Assembly has insisted the counties should get Sh 316 billion, the Senate says the share should go up to Sh 327 billion.
Council of Governors have moved to the Supreme Court to seek a judicial interpretation to forestall a financial crisis in counties.