Full Press Statement
Following a notice of a planned industrial action by unions representing health workers in Kenya, the Government has engaged in spirited negotiations and engagements at various levels with a view to forestall the strike, and save thousands of Kenyans whose lives are at risk due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
At the centre of the strike calls are a number of demands, many of which require a multi-sectoral approach if they are to be effectively addressed. So far, the Ministry of Health has been working round the clock to engage relevant agencies and ministries including the Ministries of National Treasury, Labour and Social Protection, Public Service and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Council of Governors Counties and Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
Whereas considerable progress has been made to address the health workers’ grievances, it has become clear that the Government requires adequate time and cooperation to deal with the more immediate demands, while others will be addressed in a phased manner. Clearly, attending to all the demands of the health workers will not be a switch-on-switch-off affair.
In response to some of the health workers’ demands, and to the ensure the safety of frontline workers as they attend to the COVID-19 situation, the Government has:
Ordered the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) to release all PPEs available at their stores, with the priority being the utilization by health workers.
Engaged the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to offer a comprehensive medical scheme for all public servants at including the health workers working in the National Government.
Urged various County Governments to expedite the implementation of the comprehensive medical cover for health workers through the NHIF.
Established a multi-agency committee to look into the grievances of all health workers. Members of the committee will include the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection (chair), Ministry of Health, National Treasury, Public Service Commission, Salaries and remuneration committee, Council of Governors, State law office, Federation of Kenya employers and Central Organization of Trade Unions.
The committee will be domiciled in the Ministry of Labour.
Set up a technical team comprising officials from the Ministry of Labour and representatives of the three trade unions to map out the issues raised in the strike notices and determine ways of addressing them conclusively. The committee is also expected to hand its report to me as soon possible for further action.
More fundamentally, it should be noted that the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection convened a tri-partite meeting on 2nd December, 2020 to deliberate on the various grievances that were raised by the three Unions, namely, the Kenya Medical practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union KMPDU, Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) and Kenya Union of Clinical officers (KUCO).
At the meeting, there was consensus that some of the issues raised were of policy in nature and required the input of other stakeholders beyond the Ministry of Labour, Health and the Council of Governors. Some of the issues are being addressed by the two conciliation committees I appointed under the Ministry: Nurses conciliation committee and Clinical officers Conciliation committee.
I wish to reiterate that the Government is committed to address the issues raised by health care workers, and therefore call upon the unions to engage with their employers and deliberate on their grievances in good faith so as to find an amicable solution to the current crisis. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the unions for honouring my invitation to a meeting yesterday and encourage them to continue with the same spirit as we jointly look for a lasting solution to their grievances.
The county is in the middle of a second wave of a pandemic and in the consideration of that we urge all the health workers to continue to play there critical role in securing the health of the Nation.
Finally, I wish to call upon the unions to suspend their planned strike on 7th December, 2020 as the Government works round the clock to address their grievances.
As the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Labour issues, I have a duty of making sure that there is industrial harmony in our country in all sectors including the health sector. Ultimately, we will continue to prioritize the safety of our frontline medical workers and ensure they have the best possible environment to work in, especially now that the country is confronting the Covid-19 pandemic.
Once again, I would like to firmly promise that the Government is determined to tackle all the immediate and long-term issues raised by the medical workers through conclusively and decisively through the multi-agency committee that I have constituted.
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