NAIROBI, Kenya, May 1- The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) has issued a two week strike notice in a bid to force the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to recede its decision to implement the increased contributory rates.
COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli used the May 1 celebrations at Uhuru Park to serve Labour Minister John Munyes with the strike notice.
“You (workers) should all be prepared to sleep on that day (May 14), strike notice says seven days but we have given them 14 days and no one will sack you. Notice is given and it has been served,” said Atwoli.
He said that workers had not been adequately consulted over the new rates that would see the highest contributor remit Sh2,000 while the lowest contribution would be Sh150 based on basic earnings.
“This is a strike notice for 14 May. We have notified the Minister of Labour so that our money is not stolen as we watch,” he declared.
Atwoli claimed that there were certain powerful individuals who were pushing for the implementation of the new NHIF rates to swindle workers and raise money for election campaigns.
He threatened to release a list of all the involved individuals of whom he said three were powerful businessmen and three were politicians, if the issue is not resolved in the next two weeks.
“It is not Kerich (NHIF Chief Executive Officer) because a young man who went to school like Kerich cannot shy away from consultations. Even when his board advises him to meet COTU and other people, that arrogance of politicians gets into his head, he goes ahead and issues a circular to deduct workers money without prior consultation,” Atwoli claimed.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka issued a directive to labour Minister John Munyes to launch dialogue immediately over the contentious issue to avert the looming strike.
“I direct you respectfully to fully engage COTU and look into a possibility of postponing the deductions to give dialogue a chance,” he said.
Munyes urged COTU to be ready to dialogue in a bid to resolve the issue.
“I know Kenyans are undergoing harsh economic times but the solution is not to go on strike and I want Atwoli to know that even if he has served me with a strike notice,” he said.
The new contributory rates take effect this month after the High Court ruled in favour of the national health insurer in a case where the COTU had challenged implementation of the new gazetted rates.
At the same time, employers want the NHIF to exempt employees with another medical scheme from making the revised contributions.
Federation of Kenya Employers Chief Executive Officer Jacqueline Mugo said the issue needs to be reconsidered given that most employees already had an insurance scheme in place.
“The NHIF needs to take this into consideration and any scheme that is proposed must give an opportunity for workers who are already covered under a medical insurance scheme run by their employers to be exempted. There is need for NHIF to listen to the outcry from Kenyans and employers on this scheme and to address emerging issues related to individual contribution rates,” she stated.
Mugo said adequate budgetary provision needed to be made to meet social health insurance for all Kenyans as enshrined in the constitution.
“The NHIF is a member scheme and therefore only members can benefit. The reality is that more than 46 percent of Kenyans live below a dollar a day. This population cannot afford the monthly subscription as proposed under the new scheme,” she said.
The increased rates are meant to see NHIF offer comprehensive outpatient services in addition to the current inpatient service that it offers.
However, COTU and the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union have raised questions over the capacity of NHIF to handle such a large scheme.
NHIF started offering outpatient cover in January with the introduction of the teachers and Civil Servants scheme.