Governors talks with striking nurses hit deadlock

Council of Governors

Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya consults with the leader of Medical Association of Kenya Dr Were Onyino (centre) and National Nurses Association of Kenya leader Alfred Obengo in Kakamega on January 26, 2021.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

Governors on Tuesday stood their ground and remained non-committal on an attempt by the Federation of Health Professional Association (FHPA)to initiate a mediation process to end the strike by health workers.

Officials of the FHPA met Council of Governors chair Wycliffe Oparanya in Kakamega for close to two hours at the county headquarters but failed to agree on the way forward to resolve the dispute.

Dr Alfred Obengo, the president of the National Nurses Association of Kenya said: “Today, we met Mr Oparanya to find ways in which the governors and unions can stop their hardline stands and heed to some of the grievances raised which led to the strike. We had a good discussion and I believe we are headed in the right direction.

The officials pleaded with governors not to sack striking workers saying they are going through tough times.

“On one hand, the workers are compelled by their unions to participate in the strike while on the other hand, they are threatened to be sacked by their employers should they fail to resume duty. But we pray to governors to spare the workers as we seek a truce in the matter,” said Dr Obengo.

But Governor Oparanya maintained that the health workers had defied a court order that had declared the strike illegal and participated in the strike, crippling services in hospitals.

“They defied the court order and disrespected our call as employers to show cause why they should not be disciplined. Doing what I am supposed to do by the constitution, I have no otherwise but to remove them from the county payroll. If I accommodate them, I shall be making Kakamega a comfort zone where people can go to work when they want and abscond at will,” said Mr Oparanya.

Mr Oparanya said nurses in Kakamega had defied a court order issued on December 29, 2020 that declared their strike illegal.

The Kakamega Governor said the striking health workers were given up to January 25, 2021 to show cause why they should not face a disciplinary action.

“We are going to deal with each of the workers individually because they sought employment as individuals. Those who will write letters to show that they are remorseful may be pardoned,” he said.

But the FHPA officials pleaded with Governor Oparanya to ensure that health workers participating in the strike did not lose their jobs.

This comes after a section of the counties had commenced laying off nurses who are taking part in the strike.

The counties include, Taita Taveta, Kisumu and Mombasa which have disciplinary action against their health workers.

Mr Obengo said: “We have learnt that the onus is on the National Treasury which is not releasing funds to counties and Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) which has failed to approve allowances to counties.”

He added: “We appeal to (SRC) to come to the table and appreciate the magnitude of the problem we are facing today in the health sector and approves the allowances that health workers are asking for.”

Dr Obengo called for sobriety and tolerance to enable the parties negotiate and resolve dispute.

He was accompanied by Dr Were Onyino, President of the Kenya Medical Association and Albert Taiti, the national chairman and President of Kenya Clinical Officers Association.

The health officials said they planned to meet union officials to discuss the issues which had led to stalemate in the negotiations with governors.

“We shall share with them the facts as we have discussed and ask them to engage with sobriety. Let every stakeholder stop chest thumbing for the benefit of the suffering Kenyans who are missing healthcare services from public health facilities,” said Mr Taiti.