NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 3 – The government on Friday afternoon obtained a court order blocking strikes by civil servants over the new NHIF rates.
Acting Labour Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said the order will remain in force pending an inter-parties hearing on July 9.
She declared any strike as illegal saying: “The strike can’t and should not proceed.”
“This idea that the government has lost track; has lost ideas is completely unfounded and what I hope for as the acting Labour Minister is that we set aside theatrics and put our thinking caps on. This propensity to encourage people to down their tools, to stop working is really per se, so yesterday,” Omamo said.
She cautioned those who proceed with strikes will be in contempt of court and face punishment
The Labour CS added: “We were ready to talk. TUC are not being sincere. Re-negotiation of the NHIF rates has been on for the last five years. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t get your own way you take industrial action.”
She spoke in the company of acting Transport CS James Macharia who says operations at the port of Mombasa have resumed, after 6,000 workers belonging to the dock workers union who paralysed activities reported to work.
He annulled a decision by the KPA board to lay off the striking workers and says an advert placed in Friday’s newspapers was in anticipation that the workers would not resume duty.
In the last three days, operations at East Africa’s gateway port have been somewhat at a standstill, as dock workers withheld their services to demonstrate against new NHIF rates that took effect in April.
The port that serves Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, and South Sudan has left shipping firms stranded with their goods in trucks, as no personnel is available to offer them service.
Ships docking at the port are also facing challenges of loading and unloading cargo.
Macharia who is the substantive Health CS watered down TUC-K concerns that the country’s health centres do not have capacity to deal with the expected traffic.
He explained that the government had equipped hospitals in 34 counties and refurbished 1,250 health facilities.
“TUC-K issues have been overtaken by events. They have no justification for the strike,” Macharia said.
TUC-Kenya and its officials Tom Odege and Wilson Sossion have been listed as respondents in the suit that was filed by the Public Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission, Education CS, Devolution CS and Labour CS.
The NHIF and the Council of Governors are listed as interested parties.
The unions said they would only call off their general strike when the NHIF board revoked the rates it gazetted in February and implemented in April.
They also demanded a refund of any and all amounts above previous rates, already deducted from their members in the months of April, May and June.
The workers say NHIF should be deducted based on their basic pay and not gross pay.
The Congress said they would also need to see a significant improvement in public health before again considering paying more in NHIF contributions.
The new rates are graduated between Sh150 for those who earn less than Sh6,000 and Sh1,700 for those with a gross income above Sh100,000.