Kwale, Taita-Taveta face crisis as health workers plan fresh strikes

Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Kwale Chairperson Tobias Onyango at a press conference at the Msambweni Referral Hospital in Kwale County on January 31, 2022. 

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group

A strike notice issued by healthcare workers in Kwale County expires on Tuesday, creating fears of paralysis in the sector.

Meanwhile, in Taita-Taveta County, workers issued a three-day notice on Monday to boycott work over lack of health insurance and salary delays.

In Kwale, workers cite stagnation in job groups, delayed promotions and non-payment of staff allowances for the planned strike, which Governor Salim Mvurya’s administration has not addressed.

The medics are under the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) and Kenya Health Workers Professional Society (KHPS).

Others are in the Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO) and Kenya National Union of Pharmaceutical Technologists (KNUPT).

“We have issues which have been affecting our members in the line of duty yet they have not been addressed by our employer. We know that this government’s term is about to end but we won’t let them go before these issues are resolved,” said Knun Kwale chairperson Tobias Onyango.

In an interview with, he said that many of the workers had not been promoted for more than five years and their schemes of service were not being implemented.

Other issues cited in the notice include payment of all pending promotional arrears, immediate finalisation of the current promotional list, resolution of pending issues on redesignation and full implementation of various schemes of service.

Mr Onyango said efforts to meet with the governor for talks had been futile, with a meeting organised for last Friday unsuccessful.

“We shall be forced to avoid our work stations until our issues are addressed,” he said.

Health workers at  the Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi, Taita Taveta County. 

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

The strike will affect critical health services at Msambweni Referral Hospital and various public dispensaries in Kwale County.

Health Chief Officer Salim Mbete said that officials had received the notice but there were government processes to be followed, meaning the workers’ demands would not be met immediately.

But he said the county government was working to redirect salaries that were meant for new workers who were supposed to be employed four months ago whose hiring had been delayed.

“We had a meeting with them and explained that promotions and arrears were an ongoing process,” he said. 

“This is a long process that cannot be done by Tuesday, according to their demand. It should be in the next payroll, meaning any changes we make on their salaries will reflect in their February salaries.”

He added: “It is unfortunate that the majority of the staff, about 400 out of the 1,500 health workers, have all been paid and this is a good number that should not be a reason for the strike. Some of these demands will make us breach the law.”

He added that other demands by the medical personnel were absurd and exorbitant and could barely be met by the county government.

In Taita-Taveta, the workers’ unions have asked their members to stage a go-slow to press their demands as they wait for officials to resolve their concerns. 

KMPDU branch coordinator Dr Richard Wangai said they had issued a 72-hour notice to their employer to resolve their issues.

"We have been patient for many years but they are now taking our work for granted," he said. 

Dr Wangai said their insurance cover had expired in October but the county government sought an extension, which was granted until January 24.

The workers are also demanding the remittance of their statutory and third-party deductions.

They also decried poor working conditions at health facilities. 

On Monday afternoon, county government officials were expected to meet the union representatives to resolve the challenges that have bedevilled the sector.

County secretary Liverson Mghendi said they were meeting the union representatives to discuss the concerns.

Health Executive John Mwakima said he was in a meeting and could not respond immediately to our request for comment.