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It’s a deal! nurses agree to resume work

KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako called off the strike that begun on Monday last week, as the union continues to engage the council to resolve outstanding issues/JEREMIAH WAKAYA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – The Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) has finally put pen to paper in a negotiated agreement with the National Government and County Governments ending a nine-day strike by nurses.

In his remarks after striking a deal with the Council of Governors (CoG) on Wednesday, KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako called off the strike that begun on Monday last week, as the union continues to engage the council to resolve outstanding issues.

“We have reached an agreement and the small issues that the National Governing Council had raised have actually been handled and those that have not been handled we have agreed in a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Health that they’ll be handled during the Harmonized Collective Bargaining Agreement that is going to be negotiated beginning 1 January 2017 ,” he said after the union reached an agreement with the devolved governments at the CoG headquarters in Nairobi.

“In the next few minutes all nurses across the country will start streaming back to their places of work. We have no any other reason to keep our nurses out of their places of work.”

Panyako had earlier in the day led union officials in storming out of talks with the governors citing a hard-line position by the CoG who he said demanded that the union calls off the strike even before they commence talks, prompting the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health to intervene.

“We us nurses have not taken a hard-line position, but it appears the governors are taking us for granted,” Panyako protested after walking out from a meeting with the CoG. “They are saying they will not sign a Recognition Agreement unless we call off the strike and our issue is we will not call off the strike until the Recognition Agreement is signed.”

The parties would however come to an agreement after the intervention of CS Cleopa Mailu, leading to the signing of a negotiated agreement between KNUN and the two levels of governments.

“We have made two decisions – one that the county governments will sign the Recognition Agreement with KNUN and that simultaneously they will call off the strike as ordered by the court – thereafter the process of negotiations will follow,” CoG Chairman Governor Peter Munya said.

CS Mailu however called on the doctors to soften their stand on the matters they have raised so as to resolve their issues as well.

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” I ask them (doctors) to cushion their excesses with resilience to be able to humble themselves to come to the negotiating table and get a solution,” he said.

Among issues agreed upon in the negotiated deal was the execution of a Recognition Agreement by respective County Secretaries and Chairpersons of County Public Service Boards – which now binds the counties to engage with the union on all issues touching on the nurses.

Contained in the 7-point agreement, is a requirement that the deal be incorporated in the comprehensive harmonized CBA to be formulated within two months for the period between 2017-2021.

Also included in the pact is a commitment by the National Government to offer nurses a monthly increase in nursing allowances amounting to Sh20,000 for those in Job Groups G to L and Sh15,000 for Job Groups M and above.

The monthly increase is expected to be paid in two tranches in the ratio of 60:40 with the first amount of 60 per cent payable by January 1.

In return to the offer by both the National and County Governments, KNUN agreed to call off the strike having been assured of no victimization against its members who took part in the strike.

Health CS Mailu commended the union and the CoG for reaching an agreement ending the paralysis in the nation’s health services saying the government is open to negotiations with the doctors who are still on strike.

Earlier in the day, Jeremiah Maina who recently led a nation-wide campaign to unseat Seth Panyako was whisked away by a group of union officials on accusations of impersonation.

Governors present during the signing of the agreement included Kisii Governor James Ongwae (Human resources point person, Council of Governors), Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma (Health chair, Council of Governors), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) and Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo).

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