No end in sight for raging pay disputes

Lecturers demonstrate on a Nairobi street.The lecturers have vowed not to go back to the lecture halls until their pay demand is met in full. [Photo: Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The demands for Sh12.5 billion by more than 53,000 nurses and university staff seem to be falling on deaf ears.

Both the Government and Opposition leaders appear to be too busy traversing the country in search of August 8 votes to focus on resolving the two pay disputes involving nurses and lecturers.

The strikes have elicited little reaction from the country’s political leadership.

The nurses want Sh7.2 billion to return to work and have been on the streets for four weeks now, paralysing operations in public hospitals.

Huge bills

And after receiving a Sh4.7 billion offer, lecturers want Sh5.3 billion more to go back to the lecture halls.

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Meanwhile, Kenyans continue to bear the brunt of the two strikes.

Patients are turning to the few available private hospitals and incurring huge medical bills. Reports indicate that the strike has resulted in least 10 deaths.

And more than 500,000 students in public universities have had to miss classes while the clock for their September-December semester ticks on.

Both nurses and lecturers have warned that the outcome of the election, 28 days away, will not dilute their resolve.

Yesterday, University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) National Vice Chairman Muturi Mberia warned that the manner in which workers were being handled would have far-reaching consequences at the ballot on August 8.

Busy campaigning

The nurses have been even more blunt – whoever wins the elections must brace for further protests.

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“The Government is still in place. So if the leaders are busy campaigning then we shall wait for them until 2018 or even later. It is the same Kenyans whose votes they are campaigning for that are dying for lack of treatment,” said Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Deputy Secretary General Maurice Opetu.

Mr Opetu said the narrative that the strike was called deliberately before the General Election was misleading.

He said the Government had been given enough chances to reason matters out with the nurses but it took its time.

Opetu said the collective bargaining agreement that is the bone of contention had its major details agreed on by March 27, ahead of the set deadline. But the timing of these strikes is not unprecedented.

In October 2012, a few months to the General Election, the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) went on a three-week strike to force the Government to address workers’ grievances.

Before the 2012 polls, the Kenya National Union of Teachers went on strike to compel the Government to agree to factor in a Sh13.5 billion salary harmonisation package.

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