The Council of Governors (CoG) has asked nurses’ union to call off a biting nationwide strike that has crippled health services in public hospitals before a job re-evaluation is conducted and their salary demands addressed.
At the same time, President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaking at Kenyatta National Hospital on Friday, urged nurses to end their strike, saying the suffering masses have been caught up in a "battle that is not theirs."
More than 25,000 nurses have been on strike since June 5 this year, demanding among other things, higher salaries and allowances.
While there have been attempts to hold dialogue over the issue, the CoG now seems to have changed tack, and instead pegged return to work as a condition for any negotiation that would end the stalemate.
In a letter dated August 22 and addressed to Mr Seth Panyako, the secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Nurses, the council states that nurses should go back to work and allow for a review of their jobs.
“The council is committed to work with the team that was constituted and agreed in the meeting that was held on August 21. The job description exercise is scheduled to begin immediately the strike has been called off,” reads the letter signed by Chief Executive Officer Jacqueline Mogeni.
Ms Mogeni says in the letter that the re-evaluation should be done within the timeframe given by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
“It is important to note that this exercise is critical and should be concluded within the remaining timeframe given by the SRC. The re-evaluation exercise will give a grading that will be used in the finalisation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that is still pending,” she says in the letter, also copied to Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu.
She said the county governments had offered the union a return-to-work formula that indicated that the employers were willing to jointly revise the job description for the nurses’ cadre and present an appeal to SRC for a re-evaluation.
However, the nurses have rubbished the call by the CoG, saying that job evaluation is a function carried out by
SRC in collaboration with the county Public Service Board, and not the CoG.
“We feel that the council wants to take us for granted,” said Mr Michael Opetu, the nurses’ union deputy secretary-general.
“Why are they relating job re-evaluation and the CBA? These are two different entities and we do not work under threats,” he said.