Striking nurses in public health facilities could have their salaries withheld and employment terminated after their union snubbed conciliation talks Monday.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Mr Ukur Yatani said that the failure by Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) to participate in mediation talks could attract such sanctions under the Labour Relations Act.
“It is important for all parties to participate and for the union not to undertake their strike. They were expected to cease industrial action and submit to the committee,” Mr Yatani said.
“Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) is in breach of the law and can be cited for contempt. The other party is at liberty to go to court which would leave them at a disadvantage because the employer will initiate industrial action against them by either withholding their salaries or ending their employment.”
KNUN Secretary-General Seth Panyako, however, said that they issued a 21-day notice that the Cabinet Secretary failed to acknowledge.
“Where has he been all this time? He must know that issues of workers cannot be militarised. Ukur cannot threaten us, let him come and arrest me if he wants but we will not look back and the strike will continue,” Mr Panyako said.
He warned that the strike, which kicked off in 11 counties, would extend to the others which had committed to pay improved perks to nurses should they fail to do so.
“Machakos, Migori and Mombasa have complied while Mandera, Tharaka Nithi and Vihiga have committed to pay. However, by the end of the week the remaining 30 counties should also commit or be ready for a strike,” said the union official.
KNUN is demanding that national and county governments pay the nurses Sh5,000 each annual uniform allowance and an increase in their risk perks by Sh3,000 to Sh23, 000.
The union says the State has reneged on a deal agreed November last year, which helped end a five-month strike.
Mr Yattani appointed Harun Mwaura, Abisai Abenge of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and Benson Okwaro of Confederation of Trade Unions (Cotu) as the lead conciliators in the pay talks.
Payment of the perks will raise the nurses' wage bill by Sh1 billion this year and up to Sh3.1 billion in the financial year starting July 2021.