Crisis in Meru as health workers strike

Crisis in Meru as health workers strike
Meru health workers on strike after talks on promotions with the county government failed on October 5, 2016. PHOTO | MARTIN MWENDWA

Health workers in Meru on Wednesday downed their tools after talks over promotions with the county government failed.

The workers union officials refused to sign an agreement containing promotion procedures that was presented by a team led by Meru County Secretary Julius Kimathi after their members started jeering.

Despite the county promising to effect promotions in the next two weeks, the health workers failed to call off the strike that had been planned for Wednesday because members said they did not trust the government.

Among the workers on strike are members of the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), Union of Kenya Civil Servants, Association of Public Health Workers, Association of Kenya Medical Laboratory Officers and the Kenya Pharmaceutical Association.

“We had a document but the members didn’t allow us to own it claiming that county government has shelved many agreements since last year. Members feel cheated,” said KNUN chairman Bakari Mugambi.

“In September last year Governor Peter Munya promised that our grievances would be addressed within three months but nothing has been realized yet. In May this year we had another agreement with the County Executive William Muraah but it was all about [public relations.”

On Tuesday, officials from various health workers’ unions held a daylong meeting with Mr Kimathi, the public service board chairman, health chief officer and the human resource director.

The Nurses Union secretary-general Nesbitt Mugendi said that the workers through the officials had sought audience with the county government but their cry has been falling on deaf ears.

“The most critical issue here is promotion of long serving and deserving health workers. Those who have served for over three years qualify for promotion without any prejudice without favor and unconditionally,” said Mugendi.

The secretary-general regretted that even after dialogue with the county government officials for the last three days, the relevant offices could not establish criteria to deal with the matter to avert the strike.

“The workers have no confidence with the promises given by the county officials. We have been hit several times even after trying out deliberations through formal ways,” added Mugendi.

He lamented that over 1, 200 health workers have stagnated in one job group for far too long.

After the heated meeting, the workers marched from one ward to another kicking out their colleagues and interns who were on duty.

They later walked out of the hospital chanting songs in solidarity, calling on the county government to fulfill their demands.

However, the Meru County Secretary Julius Kimathi told Citizen Digital that the government is committed to fulfilling its promise to the health workers according the agreement’s timeline.

“After a series of meetings we came up with an agreement. We expect Publis Service Board to waive a circular that limited a common cadre to two job groups and expand it to four job grops as promotions,” said Kimathi.

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Story By Martin Mwenda
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