Crippling 150-day nurses strike ends as deal signed

The 150-day strike by public sector nurses is over. The protracted work stoppage was called off last evening after a deal was struck between nurses union and the National and County governments.

Patients who had borne the brunt of the biting strike can now breath easy after the care-givers reached an agreement with the Council of Governors (CoG) and the National government. On June 5, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) officially called an industrial action largely to protest disparities in pay and allowances as compared to other public workers.

However, yesterday, after a seven-hour consultative meeting between Knun officials and representative of the Ministry of Health, CoG and the County Public Service Boards, on the key issues that prolonged the dispute, the nurses threw in the towel.

CoG chair and Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said: “We have a deal that also sets in motion the process of formalising the registration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)—one of the other sticky matter in the strike—at the Industrial Court.”

Health CS Cleopa Mailu commended the union for being receptive to a deal to end the stalemate. Mailu emphasised the effectiveness of dialogue to end any disagreements in the health sector.

“I thank the union for agreeing to sit and talk and now we have reached an amicable solution,” Mailu said. Nanok said: “Following the consultative meeting, we have agreed that the union calls off the strike and directs its members to report back to work immediately, or not later than November 3, by close of business.”

Nanok also promised the nurses all their withheld salaries to their bank accounts will be paid latest by December 31. Yesterday, Nanok said the meeting and preceding negotiations had solved two areas that amplified the unrest between the nurses and the State. The nurses have been up in arms over uniform and nursing allowances, among other issues.

“We have agreed to increase the uniform allowance from the current Sh15,000 (2018-19) by Sh5,000 to Sh20,000 and in the 2019-20 financial year by another Sh5,000,” he said. He said the nurses will receive higher nursing allowances (risk stipends) in a staggered three years between 2019 and 2021.

The allowances will be increased from the current Sh23,000 (2018-19) by Sh3,000 in the first year to Sh26,500 in 2019-2020 financial year and by Sh3,500 in the second year and third year respectively, to make it Sh30,000 in 2020-21.

Knun secretary general Seth Panyako regretted the protracted strike which exposed ordinary Kenyans to pain and suffering and apologised to patients who had to bear the burden of the industrial action.

“With the powers conferred to me by the nurses union constitution and the labour laws, I hereby declare that the strike that begun on June 5, 2017, is officially called off and our members are advised to go back to work with immediate effect and those who can’t make it must resume work by Friday November 3, 2017,” Panyako said.

Others in yesterday’s talks included Health PS Julius Korir, Joseph Ngwasi the acting chairman of KNUN and CoG chairman of Health Committee James Ongwae. However, nurses in several countis had earlier abandoned the strike and resumed work, following local deals with county governments.

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