May 2020 DailyNation; Health workers’ quest for better allowances hangs in the balance after county governments were told to reorganise their budgets to raise Sh2.356 billion required to implement the welfare and insurance package
This comes after Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, in a letter to Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) chairperson Lyn Mengich, told counties to carry their own crosses.
“County governments should be requested to reorganise their respective budgets and provide for the Covid-19 medical emergency allowance for their staff as per your approval,” Mr Yatani says in the May 5 letter.
The Treasury’s position will likely exacerbate the situation if health workers in public facilities down their tools on Monday, as they have threatened, over poor working conditions and lack of equipment.
The planned strike will come amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the global economy and decimated lives, demoralising health workers. But despite that, the strike should be the last thing to happen.
On Thursday, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi said the government was in talks with the workers’ representatives to avert the industrial action, which is likely to paralyse operations in public hospitals.
“We are aware of the critical role the health workers play during the coronavirus pandemic, and assured that their concerns will be prioritised. We are in discussions and negotiations with them to evaluate their concerns and to be able to come to a middle ground where we can actually move forward,” she said.
“As we continue with discussions, one of the issues we are trying to address is PPE. Other grievances on the table are being discussed and we are in negotiations to avert any strike on Monday.”
The health workers, under their umbrella organisation, the Kenya Health Professional Association, maintains that they have not received any calls from the government for talks.
“We are ready when called upon even now. All we are asking for is for the government to harmonise our allowances across all cadres as well as taking care of our members’ safety,” said George Gibore, the secretary-general of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers.
The workers have maintained that they will go on strike from Monday.
The Treasury’s move to block the county governments from paying the allowances will also disrupt their budgets.
This complicates the financial situation for counties, considering that the Treasury has delayed disbursing at least Sh85 billion in equitable share to them.
The Ministry of Public Service and Gender proposed a medical emergency allowance and benefits for all frontline health workers in the national and county governments for three months effective April 1.
The proposal was approved by SRC. In the letter, Mt Yatani notes that the cost of implementing the allowance and the benefits for the national and county workers for the three months is estimated at Sh3.432 billion.