The Kenya National Union of Nurses has dismissed attempts by the national and county governments to stop a strike expected to begin Monday.
Union Secretary-General Seth Panyako yesterday said the strike is on despite attempts by the Ministry of Labour to initiate dialogue between the nurses, the Council of Governors and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission over a collective bargaining agreement signed on November 2, 2017.
The ministry has invited union officials and other parties to a meeting at the National Social Security Fund headquarters Monday morning.
On Friday, Labour and Social Protection CS Ukur Yattani appointed a conciliation committee chaired by Mr Harun Mwaura.
The minister appealed to the union to call off the strike.
“In view of this development, I urge the union to suspend the intended industrial action and give...dialogue a chance,” he said.
Mr Yattani said the committee would look into issues raised by the nurses and submit a report to his office within 30 days.
He blamed the dispute between nurses and their employer on non-implementation of a return-to-work deal signed in November 2017.
“You are invited to our preparatory meeting at the NSSF House in the Principal Secretary’s boardroom on February 4, 2019 from 8am,” Mr Mwaura said.
The letter was copied to Council of Governors HR chairman James Ongwae, the Labour CS and the chief industrial relations officer.
Mr Abisai Ambenge from the Federation of Kenya Employers and Mr Ben Okwaro from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions have also invited to the meeting.
A source at KNUN, however, dismissed the efforts by the council as ill-timed and driven by malice.
“We only saw the announcement by the Council of Governors after our secretary general spoke in Kakamega. What had the council been waiting for?” the union official, who did not wish to be identified, asked.
He added that the union would not honour the invitation.
Mr Panyako told the Nation on Saturday that the strike would affect counties where the salary deal has not been implemented.
“If the SRC continues to play cat-and-mouse games with nurses, the strike will proceed as planned,” Mr Panyako told journalists in Kakamega.
He, however, indicated that he would send a representative to the meeting.
"I will be in Eldoret at the time of the meeting but I will send a representative. The strike is on and will continue until the allowances are paid," he said.
The nurses are demanding service and uniform allowances.
The strike is expected to affect Nairobi, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Murang'a, Kisii, Embu, Kiambu, Garissa, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kirinyaga, Marsabit, Nyandarua and Nyeri counties.
Others are Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Tharaka-Nithi, West Pokot, Kitui, Wajir, Kwale, Mandera and Taita-Taveta.
Some 21 county governments have shown willingness to implement the collective bargaining agreement.
Mombasa, Mandera, Vihiga and Migori counties will not be affected by the strike.
The union accuses the national and county governments of using delaying tactics to frustrate nurses.
“The games being played by the ministry are meant to sabotage President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. The union will not accept that,” Mr Panyako added.
The Council of Governors said it expects the standoff with nurses to be resolved quickly.
Devolved governments are yet to deal with the huge pay disparities among their workers.
Nurses in Vihiga will not join the strike after signing a deal with the county government on promotions and payment of their allowances.
KNUN Vihiga branch secretary Caleb Maloba yesterday said all demands by the 600 nurses in the region would be met at the end of this month.
Mr Maloba said the administration acquiesced to the demands during a meeting at the referral hospital in Mbale on Friday.
Meanwhile, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula urged the nurses to reconsider their decision "for the sake of the patients".
Reported by Aggrey Omboki, Derrick Luvega and Dennis Lubanga