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Health workers suspend strike after talks

Sunday May 17 2020

Nurses STRIKE

Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary-General Seth Panyako speaks to journalists concerning their strike, at Railways Club in Nairobi on May 17, 2020. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ANGELA OKETCH
By ANGELA OKETCH
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Thousands of health workers on Sunday agreed to suspend a strike notice that was to start Monday after reaching a deal with the government.

The health workers’ leaders had held talks with the Ministry of Health officials on Friday and agreed to push forward the strike by 21 days to give room for discussion.

“We agreed to come up with a framework on how we are going to work together, and the officials agreed that by the end of this week, they will have promoted all the health workers who are working under the national government,” said Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary-General Seth Panyako.

He said they also agreed that all health workers would be promoted regardless of where they work.

However, they warned that they would go on with the strike if the ministry fails to address their demands within the stipulated three weeks.

“It is very unfortunate that the government only listens to us after we serve them with a strike notice, but since we cannot negotiate when the strike is on, we are giving them a period of 21 days to give us what is rightfully ours,” said Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Secretary-General George Gibore.

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Mr Gibore said they are fighting to ensure workers have adequate protection as they attend to Covid-19 patients. “We are giving them time to put their house in order and we are very flexible for negotiations,” he said.

WELFARE ALLOWANCE

Nurses, clinical officers, pharmaceutical technicians, nutritionists, morticians and other cadres of the health workforce had earlier requested the government to harmonise their welfare allowance and job promotion.

However, the government said only county governments can handle issues of promotion, welfare and insurance package for healthcare workers.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani, in a letter to Salaries and Remuneration Commission Chairperson Lyn Mengich, told the county governments to reorganise their budgets to raise Sh2.356 billion required to implement the welfare and insurance package.

“County governments should be requested to reorganise their respective budgets and provide for the Covid-19 medical emergency allowance for their staff as per your approval,” said Mr Yattani in the May 5 letter.