October 22nd 2017

Society / Health & Science

Nurses union chairman calls off strike, doubts remain

The Kenya Free Press has learnt that the minister worked extra hard to have the agreement signed today to counteract an embarassing situation where he had prepared for Mr Bii to do so yesterday, only for the chairman to decline, saying powers to call off a strike rested with the secretary general.

By Soilan Kenanaskenana@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 11 Dec 2016 14:09 EAT

Mr Bii signs the document with Health CS Dr Mailu.

The Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) appeared divided this afternoon after a section of its leadership signed a return-to-work formula with the government. KNUN chairman John Bii signed an agreement with the cabinet secretary for health, Dr Cleopa Mailu, that he said had given nurses most of what they sought in the week-long strike that began on December 5. However, his secretary general Seth Panyako, who is the official spokesman for the union, was absent from the signing ceremony.

The Kenya Free Press has learnt that the minister worked extra hard to have the agreement signed today to counteract an embarassing situation where he had prepared for Mr Bii to do so yesterday, only for the chairman to decline, saying powers to call off a strike rested with the union's secretary general. Today, Mr Bii, speaking in the company of Dr Mailu, told journalists that he had powers to do to call off the strike.

The nurses called their strike in solidarity with doctors, whose Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dental Union (KMPPDU) had crafted the now controversial agreement over better working conditions long before the doctors made an agreement to go on a nationwide strike. Since the strike began, talks between the representatives of KMPPDU and the government have hit the deadlock. More than 20 patients have died since medical facilities were closed. The doctors had presented their demands in 2013 to the government and got no response.

In response to the strike, the Labour Relations Court ordered the police to serve officials of nurses and doctors unions with a court order that had declared the strike suspended. Judge Hellen Wasilwa ordered the officials to appear in court next Tuesday to defend themselves from civil jail for disobeying court orders, failure to which she would issue warrants of arrest.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the medical workers to return to work. "Let us be humane and mindful of the lives of the patients. I am confident that we will find a solution to the problem," said the president. Dr Mailu in the meantime, intensified efforts to have the nurses and doctors resume work.

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