Health Workers employed by Kenya’s federal government across the country embarked on an indefinite strike from Thursday, October 29, demanding promotions and job re-designations that have been long overdue.
Earlier, in May and again in August, unions had served strike notices, but rescinded the planned action after assurances from the government which had sought more time. However, no progress was made towards resolution.
This time, unions decided to press ahead with a strike, of which the government was notified seven working days in advance, on October 19.
The striking workers are represented an umbrella organization called the Kenya Health Professionals Society (KHPS), including the Kenya National Union of Clinical Officers, Kenya National Union of Nurses, Kenya Health Professionals Society, Kenya National Union of Laboratory Officers, Kenya National Union of Pharmaceutical Technologists and the Kenya Union of Nutritionists and Dieticians.
“It is demoralizing that the ministry has over the years promised to effect promotions for the undersigned cadres, only to backtrack and later employ delaying tactics that have seen officers stagnate in one job group up to over 15 years,” read their joint statement accompanying the strike notice.
On October 28, when the notice was set to expire by midnight with no attempts from the government to resolve, Peterson Wachira, chairperson of Kenya National Union of Clinical Officers, announced: “It is a very unfortunate moment that we are giving you such bad news. Beginning midnight, there will be no COVID-19 screening at all ports of entry.”
“We have been played in the past, we will not be played again,” he said, adding that this time “we will only come back when we have letters of promotions, and our members have been designated.”
Unions demand that the number of years of stagnation in the same job role of an employee must be considered as a factor, along with his or her qualification, in implementing the promotions and re-designations.
The Star reported that “there are officers in four job groups who have stagnated for more than 12 years, those in three job groups who have stagnated for nine to 11 years, while those in two job groups have stagnated for six to eight years. In one job group, they have stagnated for three to six years.”