Uhuru to nurses: There’s no money
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday appeared to have closed all avenues for dialogue with the striking nurses after he ruled out raising “the bloated and unsustainable” public wage bill further.
Instead, the President restated the position of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) saying more attempts should be made to push for higher salaries.
Speaking in Kisii, Mr Kenyatta said “those agitating for higher pay should not put their stomachs ahead of the interests of Kenyans. There is no money and there will never be enough for us to just push for salary increments every day because if that is the case when will we serve Kenyans? We need to grow our economy, our country and its prosperity then talk about salaries,” he said.
The SRC, which advises on wage levels and allowances for public workers, has said the uniform and risk allowances that nurses are agitating for are beyond their pay recommendations and job evaluation.
Various arms of government have continued to shut down the implementation of a return to work formula agreement signed by the nurses’ union and the Council of Governors, a move that likely will present increasing problems for the nurses. Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) accused government offices of frustrating its efforts to implement the agreed payment of uniform and risk allowances.
“This is corruption fighting back, they are just trying to politicise this issue and we are fought from all corners now,” said Knun Secretary-General Seth Panyako.
His remarks came after the Controller of Budget ordered counties that have paid the allowances to recover the money.
They were however told that they should not approve withdrawals from public funds until authorised by law and backed by the SRC. Mr Panyako downplayed the issue saying that he had no problem with the office of the Controller of Budget asking that due process be followed in releasing the funds and remained confident that the payments would not be recouped. Counties such as Bomet, Kisii, Embu, and Nyeri have agreed to expedite resolution of the issues which could however be an exercise in futility following the latest directive.
Nurses have further been backed into a wall with the ministry and the Council of Governors (CoG) saying that those who lose their jobs for participating in the strike will not be hired in any public health facility.
“It is hereby reiterated that the defiant nurses will face disciplinary action in accordance with existing government regulations. In addition, mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that dismissed officers are not re-hired,” reads a joint statement by the Ministry of Health and the CoG.