Meru medics threaten strike over promotions, staff shortage

Wednesday March 18 2020
Knun

Bakari Munoru, Kenya National Union of Nurses' Meru branch chairman, addresses health workers at Meru Level Five Hospital on a looming strike, February 14, 2020. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By DAVID MUCHUI

Health workers’ unions in Meru have threatened to strike in two weeks as talks with the county have collapsed.

The medics, who suspended a strike two weeks ago, warned on Friday that they will issue a notice next week and withdraw from all talks.

They are members of organisations including the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU) and the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco).

The unions said Meru has failed to commit to promotions in all cadres, statutory deductions amounting to Sh38 million for November and December, and employment of more health workers.

Two weeks ago, the unions statutory deductions and advertisement of jobs to address a biting shortage within five days to avert a strike.

Officials representing doctors, clinical officers, nurses, lab technologists and pharmaceutical technologists gave a 21-day notice that expired on February 5.

STAGNATION

Speaking at Meru Level Five Hospital on Friday, Dr Dennis Mugambi, the KMPDU's upper eastern branch chair, said the stagnation and biting shortage of doctors in Meru is unbearable.

“We have held several boardroom meetings but the county has failed to promote members in all cadres. They are promising to promote those in the common cadres, leaving out consultants, some of whom have stagnated in one job group for 10 years," Dr Mugambi said.

“The county is non-committal on remittance of statutory deductions, citing delays by the exchequer. We will not allow this because workers are suffering due to failure to deduct money for insurance premiums and loans."

He said all the unions will issue a 14-day strike notice and not agree to any talks.

COUNTY'S SIDE

Knun's Meru branch chairman Bakari Munoru said efforts to engage Finance executive Titus Ntuchiu on the matter had failed.

“The argument by the county, that it will talk to banks over delayed payment of loans does not add up," Mr Munoru said.

"Our members have instructed us to call for a strike within the shortest time possible. The county argues it has no money for promotions because it is paying pending bills."

He warned that with the strike, health services across the county will be paralysed.

"TACTICAL DELAY"

Knun's Meru Secretary Nesbitt Mugendi noted they had unsuccessfully discussed the matter with the county for two years.

“There is a tactical delay to address our demands therefore we cannot be patient any longer. We have fulfilled the requirement for talks and hit a dead end. The next strike will end when the county meets our demands,” Mr Mugendi said.

The medics have accused Meru of creating the shortage in order to cut the wage bill.

They have cited the 2018 closure of a physiotherapy unit at Kanyakine Hospital due to a staff shortage, overworking of nurses and doctors at Meru Level Five hospital and withholding of deductions amounting to Sh38 million.