NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 16- “One minute please…” a Cameraman from one of the media houses said in response to a question by one of the Kenya National Union of Nurses who wanted to know whether journalists were ready for him to read his statement.
The one minute was over and the cameras were rolling, all ready to capture the big announcement. The venue is at the Kenya Railways Club in Nairobi.
The Union’s ‘Chairperson’ John Bii first introduced two other ‘officials’ on either side and then gave a brief background information on why they had called for the press briefing.
“As we sit here today, our hearts are bleeding for our country since the ongoing nurses strike is now in its second week without any sign of progress towards the CBA…” Bii kicked off.
Before proceeding further, he first sought to clear the air, by affirming that he was still the chairperson of KNUN.
“So that I come to my statement there have been a lot of insinuation, peddled by my own colleagues, that I am no longer the chairman of the KNUN and we have one who have been masquerading in your TV saying he is the acting chairman…,” he went to explain.
Bii has the backing of the court, he said, following a legal challenge he had made against General Secretary Seth Panyako whom he had accused of abuse of office.
But just before he could read his statement, which allegedly was to call off the strike ahead of the negotiations between them and the Council of Governors, someone walked in and immediately took over.
“Excuse me media, this is a big lie…you are being given a wrong narrative about the strike for nurses. The General Secretary himself is coming here and he will address you on the correct state of the nurse strike…the guys here have been compromised, they have been given money to compromise the situation,” a member of the union said.
He went on to plead with journalists, “Please don’t listen to them, the General Secretary (Seth Panyako) is coming.”
After a few minutes, the official was joined by other officials, who claimed to be ‘genuine’ dismissing Bii’s team as “masqueraders.”
“Look at these fake people,” the new team would be heard saying.
The two factions claimed legitimacy to speak on behalf of the union.
The new team was lead by acting Chairperson Joseph Ngwasi and won’t stop at anything else other than kicking out the one headed by Bii.
Bii who was at one point addressing journalists, was at this point fighting to stay inside the conference room.
His two other colleagues had already been kicked out.
After a near exchange of blows, he was escorted out by armed Administration Police officers, who sided with the “majority.”
“The union constitution is clear on who is supposed to speak on behalf of the union,” the acting chairperson Ngwasi said.
Bii’s leadership at the helm of the union has been a subject of litigation since February with the Union’s Secretary General Seth Panyako calling for his ouster.
The ongoing strike was declared by acting Secretary General Maurice Opetu.
A few minutes later, General Secretary Seth Panyako arrived and accused cartels of frustrating their efforts to have a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is set to harmonise their salaries, which they say it’s plagued with huge disparities.
He said though the nurses were willing to negotiate with the Government, some individuals within the Council of Governors are working with interested parties to derail their efforts.
“We must tell the world what is happening. This is why Kenyans are dying…,” he said.
Panyako further pointed out that the Cabinet Secretary for Health Cleopas Mailu has a role to play in the ongoing strike after the CS earlier said it was purely a mandate of the Governors to address their grievances.
According to Panyako, the Governor’s have no mandate in negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement within the constitution, since it is the role of the National Government to set the labor standards of the country.
“Those people who did the constitution was not fools because they knew the financial implication of any CBA …,” he said. “It is the National Government to negotiate the CBA for the entire country.”
Health is a devolved function under the Constitution.