Kenya’s health workers defy court order, continue with strikeSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 08/01/2013 6:54 pm in World / no comments
By Peter Mutai
NAIROBI, Jan. 7 — Kenyan nurses on Monday defied a court order issued last Friday declaring the ongoing national strike by the country’s illegal and vowed to continue with their industrial action until the government registers their union.
Unregistered Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) Secretary- General Seth Panyako told journalists in Nairobi that the strike was still on, insisting the union officials have not been served with the court orders in question.
“Today, we have also been in court to apply that the orders by judge Onyango be set aside since she had no legal jurisdiction to rule against previous orders made by Judge David Marete. Legal procedures were not followed, thus our strike will continue,” he said.
Industrial Court Judge Maureen Onyango last Friday ordered the striking nurses to resume work and also ordered the government to reinstate nurses who have been sacked but warned the health weeks who do not heed the court’s directive of dire disciplinary action.
“Any nurse who does not go back to work will be in breach of employment contract and risks disciplinary action being taken against them as per Section 80 of the Labor Relations Act,” Justice Onyango ruled.
However, a spot check in several hospitals and other health facilities across the East African nation on Monday revealed that most nurses defied the court order asking them to return to work.
Those at the Coastal region held peaceful demonstrations protesting demotion and transfer of their colleagues by the government.
Panyako said the government officials have refused to engage officials of the nurses union in line with the court order, which had asked medical services minister to meet with KNUN officials to resolve their impasse and report back within seven days.
He said the Ministry of Labor had called the union for a meeting to inform them about the court session on Tuesday.
Panyako said that the government had continuously violated the labor rights of nurses to have a registered union despite meeting all the requirements for registration.
National Nurses Association of Kenya chairman Jeremiah Maina said nurses never went on strike to go to court but to have their issues addressed by the government.
“We went on strike to have our issues addressed. It’s unfortunate that nobody will listen to us other than the court. We never went on strike to go to court,” Maina said.
“Having one nurse to a hundred patients is not nursing. That is called witchcraft,” Maina said and ruled out the possibility of returning to work while their grievances are addressed.
The month-long national strike by the nurses has paralyzed public hospitals and health facilities across the East African nation with Kenyans calling on the ministries of public health and medical services to move with speed and end the crisis.
Members of the unregistered KNUN and NNAK have been demanding for the immediate registration of their union, employment of nurses on contract, replacement of all nurses who have left nursing through natural attrition, retirement and resignation and continuous employment of all qualifying nurses.
The striking health workers have also been seeking commitment by government to improve medical equipment and supplies to all public health facilities and re-designation and promotion of all deserving nurses including appointment of Director of Nursing Services and filling of vacant positions and allowances.
The Ministry of Medical Services stopped the salaries of all nurses involved in the countrywide strike. The ministry said the government cannot continue paying civil servants who are not working as required by the law.
Leaders of KNUN and NNAK have maintained they will not return to work, despite sack threats by Medical Services Minister Prof. Anyang Nyong’o. But Nyong’o said organizers of the industrial action are operating in total disregard of the law and called for their arrest.
Patients in public hospitals across the country continue to suffer as the nurses maintain they will not relent in their quest for “justice” in the medical sector.
Cases of patients passing away as a result of the ongoing strike have been reported in some hospitals.