NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14 – Health workers have called off their two-week strike after talks between the government, the Union of Kenya Civil Servants and the Health Professionals Society chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday afternoon.
The Assistant Minister in the PM’s office Alfred Khang’ati announced that the four-hour meeting persuaded the workers to resume work unconditionally.
The crisis meeting also agreed that all disciplinary letters that were sent to the striking workers would be withdrawn.
Health workers have been on strike since the start of March defying sack threats and calls to return to work from the Ministry of Medical Services.
“It was also agreed that all the issues raised by the workers will be addressed exhaustively. The quick gains are to be implemented immediately while matters with budgetary implications would be addressed with effect from July 1,” said Khang’ati.
Khang’ati said that those who failed to return to work on Thursday woukd be dealt with in accordance with the law.
“Health workers who fail to report to duty by the end of Thursday March 15 would be liable for disciplinary action individually and in accordance with existing regulations for public servants,” he said.
The meeting also agreed that the unions which had sued the government over disciplinary processes would withdraw the suit as an act of good faith.
Last Thursday, the government announced that it had sacked 25,000 health workers who defied a directive by Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o to go back to work.
Among the issues immediately sorted include the first phase of extraneous allowances that ought to be paid to the workers ranging from Sh2,500 to Sh7,000 that has been backdated to December last year.
A task force comprising representation from the negotiating parties has also been set up to address both medium and long-term problems affecting the health sector.
The task force is expected to commence sittings on March 21 to resolve the problems affecting the health sector leading to the strike that paralyzed operations in all public hospitals
“We are in agreement that the problems facing u currently cannot be sorted in a day and we need the taskforce to look into the issues conclusively the problem is not only money,” said Tom Odege of the Union of Kenya Civil Servants who said that the unions will ensure that the interests of the workers are well articulated.
On Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki stepped into the row urging the health workers to embrace constructive dialogue whenever there are disagreements instead of taking actions that resulted in the suffering of patients.
The president who spoke in Machakos reassured that the government remained committed to properly remunerating the medical personnel within its economic abilities.
The nurses were opposed to the categorisation of the health workers by cadres in giving the extraneous allowances.
Other demands the health workers had made were private practice allowance, payment of interns, risk allowance, promotions, re-designation for certificate holders who have acquired diplomas, review of schemes of service, uniform allowance for nurses and nutritionists.