Contract health workers want permanent terms

health workers

Public health officer Isaac Omwenga addressing journalists in Nairobi on February 12, 2023. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Over 8,500 healthcare workers employed on contract under the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme by county governments in 2020 have faulted the proposal to have their terms extended for three years.

They want the counties to employ them on permanent and pensionable terms, terming the resolution to keep them on contracts as contempt for their hard work and sacrifices made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The staff had been recruited on three-year contracts that run out in June.

The decision to renew their contracts was revealed in resolutions read by Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru last week after the county chiefs met President William Ruto and other government officials during the 9th National and County Government Coordinating Summit meeting. The contracts are to be renewed under the same terms and conditions.

However, the workers said that even though they work under the same conditions as their colleagues who are on permanent and pensionable terms, they have been facing several challenges, including low pay and no allowances.

“It is important to know that the current contractual terms do not have allowances and it is termed as a special consolidated salary. Extending the contracts under the same terms for three years whereas our fellow healthcare colleagues earn salaries as per SRC (Salaries and Remuneration Commission) guidelines and policies is utter unappreciation and contempt to the hard work and sacrifices we made during the Covid-19 scourge,” read the statement.

They called on Cabinet Secretary for Health Susan Nakhumicha to see to it that they get permanent and pensionable terms, allowances as per SRC guidelines and gratuity for the years they served on contracts.

Fairly compensated

One of the workers’ representatives, Ian Murimi, said there has been no official communication from the government regarding their fate. He added that the decision to renew their contracts is a setback since the previous government and CoG had made progress towards their absorption.

“Under the last regime, the Health principal secretary had constituted a task force to discuss how we were going to be absorbed by counties. The turn of events is a surprise to us,” he said.

He added: “We also deserve to be fairly compensated for the services we offer to the public. We cannot continue under the same terms because it is a violation of our employment rights.”

Last year in May, CoG, through a letter to the Ministry of Health, asked the national government to provide adequate budgetary allocation to counties to provide for the workers’ salaries for them to be absorbed on permanent terms.

The group’s chairperson Desmond Wafula said they are seeking the support of health workers unions to support them in their push for better terms.

“We have sent letters to unions and we are waiting for feedback. So far, Kenya National Union of Nurses and Kenya Union of Clinical officers have promised to support us in demand for equal pay,” he said.