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Clinical Officers give government 12-day ultimatum to avert looming strike

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers has given the government up to the end of the month to reopen negotiations into their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or they down their tools.

The union had initially threatened to go on strike this week accusing the government of failing to honour binding terms of a return-to-work deal it struck with the clinical officers on October 5, 2017.

The deal required the two parties to sign, within 60 days, a recognition agreement in accordance with the existing Labour Laws before embarking on CBA talks, which has not happened so far.

KUCO General Secretary George Gibore said that the union has heeded calls by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani to go back to the negotiation table but has warned him that the government has only 12 days to ensure that the talks happen or they go on strike.

He said that the union also wants the government to ensure that the negotiations on the remaining 15 percent of their CBA be concluded and signed within 30 days of the resumption of the talks failure to which the Union’s National Executive Council (NEC) is under instruction from the Union’s advisory council to call for a strike.

NEGOTIATIONS

“We have heeded the call to go back to the table and start from where we had stopped but the negotiations must resume before March 1. Subsequently, if it starts and we do not conclude the CBA before March 28 then we will call for a strike to push the government to conclude this matter,” said Mr Gibore on Saturday after a meeting of the union’s advisory committee in Nairobi.

Mr Gibore said that the Union has been negotiating with the Council of Governors and the Ministry of Health since November 2017 which has seen the union sign recognition agreement with a majority of the county governments with only the Ministry remaining to sign the same.

“We have a communication from the ministry that on Monday they will sign the agreement. That provides for the negotiation of the CBA which stalled after negotiation for close to 90 percent of the items proposed to the national government. We are also heeding to the call of the national government that we reconstitute our negotiating team,” he said.

He said the negotiations started in December 2017 with a timeline of up to January 31, 2018 but this then dragged to April 2018, when the government walked out of the negotiations, leading to a collapse of the talks.

On his part, KUCO chairman Peterson Wachira called on the government to enhance staffing in the health sector in order to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by increasing its budgetary allocation to the health sector from the current 3 percent to 15 percent as is provided for in Abuja declaration.

MEDICAL COVER

He explained that currently, there are only 6,000 clinical officers against a requirement of 24,000 that was put forward by the Health Ministry as needed number to help it realize UHC.

“This means that a clinical officer will have to see up to 150 patients in a day (8 hours). The World Health Organization standards is that you should not exceed 35 patients,” said Mr Wachira.

Mr Wachira further asked the government to revamp their comprehensive medical cover as had been advised by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) that every employer should ensure that its employees have comprehensive medical cover, which is in line with the Employment Act Section 34.

“Imagine 98 percent of the counties have no comprehensive medical cover. Some of us when we have a problem with our tooth, we can only have it extracted because we cannot afford root canal and other procedures because we cannot even afford the services that ourselves we do offer,” he said.

The clinical officers have also been demanding a raise in their risk allowance from Sh3,000 to Sh30,000 and call allowance from Sh10,000 to Sh70,000. They also want health workers’ allowances increased from Sh20,000 to Sh30,000.