NHIF managers move to court, claim juniors earning more

The National Hospital Insurance Fund building in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Senior managers of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) have moved to court alleging salary discrimination that has seen some members in the lower cadre earning more than them.

In a case filed under a certificate of urgency, the management staff claim that salary increments over the years have favoured the unionised employees who negotiate better pay packages.

Gwaragwara Nkosi and Khadija Ali said unionised employees have negotiated two collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) - for the years 2017-2021 and 2021-2023 – which granted them significant salary increments of 38 percent and 15 percent, respectively, whereas the management staff received a 16 percent increase.

“The above disproportionate increase led to a considerable gap between union and management staff salaries, amounting to approximately Sh30,000 above the salaries of management staff at certain levels, notably management staff in [job grades] HF8 and HF9,” the duo said in the petition.

The petitioners said despite their dedication and contribution to the organisation, they have been systematically marginalised in salary increments compared to their unionised counterparts.

They pointed out that in 2016, the World Bank facilitated negotiations leading to a severance agreement within NHIF, resulting in the early retirement of certain staff members.

In 2017, unionised employees from job grade HF7 downwards successfully negotiated for a salary increment. There was another increment in 2021.

“The unequal distribution of salaries not only affects the current financial well-being of management staff but also has implications for their future, including their absorption into new structures, deployment into public services, and retirement plans,” the petitioners stated.

A looming third CBA will widen the salary gap, intensifying the demoralisation and distress felt by management staff, they stated in the court papers.

“That during the mentioned negotiations, the management staff in HF8 to HF13 were overlooked, creating a significant disparity between their salaries and those of unionised employees, which is discriminatory against the rights of management staff,” Mr Nkosi said in an affidavit.

Labour laws do not permit management employees to join trade unions.

The senior staff said while unionised workers from HF1 to HF7 got salary increments to caution against economic factors such as rising inflation and taxation, they have not had any pay rise.

“The discrimination constitutes to an infringement of their fundamental rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. These rights including the right to fair labour practices and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law are integral to preserving individual dignity and promoting social justice,” the petition stated.

The court was informed that the Social Health Insurance Act (SHIA) provides the absorption of NHIF workers into the Social Health Authority or deployment into public service.

However, the disparity in salaries will affect them if they are redeployed with lower salaries or opt for retirement.

“There is a clear violation of Public Service Remuneration and Benefit Guidelines 2022 Section 3.2.2 which states that pay disparity that arises from the salary structure shall be harmonised,” the duo stated in the court documents.

Further, on retirement, the unionised employees negotiated better redundancy terms, while those in management staff have not been considered, including voluntary early retirement incentive perks.

They want the court to issue an order stopping the transition from NHIF to Social Health Authority pending the hearing and determination of the petition or an order compelling Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to recommend an increase of their salaries.

“That an order of injunction do issue stopping the transition committee either by themselves, their agents and or employees from submitting their report to the President, Ministry of Health, Social Health Authority Board and NHIF Board, pending the hearing and determination of the petition,” the petitioners urged.

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