NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has given striking nurses until Friday morning to report back to duty failure to which respective county governments and the Ministry of Health shall dismiss them.
Kenyatta who spoke Wednesday morning following a meeting with Council of Governors (CoG) representatives led by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya termed the strike illegal since it violates an order by the Employment and Labour Relations Court suspending the industrial action for sixty days.
“One of the most important principles upon which our republic is established is the rule of law – no one is above the law. Obeying court orders is not optional but a requirement to all of us,” Kenyatta said while directing nurses to resume duty by 8 am on Friday.
He warned the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) against intimidating health workers willing to resume duty directing the police to take decisive action against protesters obstructing those willing to work.
“As the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, I have instructed the National Police Service to take decisive action against those picketers who may intimidate or otherwise harass public servants who intend to go to work,” President Kenyatta ordered.
Kenyatta noted with concern the huge sums of money gobbled up in recurrent expenditure saying at least 87.3 per cent of county budgets were channeled to expenses other than capital spending.
The strike which entered its second week on Monday was suspended by the court on February 5 to give room for conciliation talks spearheaded by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani had on February 4 asked KNUN officials to call off a planned strike in 23 counties to provide room for dialogue.
“You’re expected to stop the industrial action and submit before the committee, process the matter, with a view of getting a solution. If a party is here and at the same time asking its members to proceed with the strike that is in breach of the law and that party will be cited in contempt,” he said on Monday last week.
The CS urged parties to the dispute to file memoranda with the committee within thirty days to expedite the process.
“Procedurally, all parties are expected to present memoranda outlining their issues so that they can be processed,” he said.
KNUN General Seth Panyako however dismissed Yatani’s appeal saying the strike would continue as planned.
“We’ve 11 counties so far where nurses have downed tools so far. We’re talking of about 8,000 nurses,” he said.
According to Panyako only Machakos, Mombasa and Migori had honored a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in November 2017, with three others re-committing to the same.
The 23 counties affected by the strike include Nairobi, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Muranga, Kisii, Embu, Kiambu, Garissa and Elgeyo Marakwet.
Others are Nyandarua, Nyeri, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kirinyaga, Marsabit, TransNzoia, Tharaka Nithi, West Pokot, Kitui, Wajir, Kwale, Mandera and Taita Taveta.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko averted a looming strike by nurses in the capital after undertaking to honour the nurses’ CBA.
Nurses in Murang’a, Nakuru, Siaya, Busia, Bomet, Makueni, and Tana River were scheduled to join their colleagues in the ongoing industrial action on Monday next week.
The 2017 CBA provided for a fifty per cent increase in service allowance earned by nurses from the current Sh 20,000 to Sh 30,000.
The CBA also provided for a Sh 15,000 uniform allowance.
The November 2, 2017 deal was reached after a five month work boycott that paralyzed health services in public hospitals.
Nurses had downed their tools for close to 100 days in 2016 in a strike they jointly embanked on with doctors on December 6.