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Vihiga health workers issue strike notice

By Brian Kisanji | October 20th 2021

In this 2015 photo, Health workers in Vihiga County demonstrate on the streets for their unpaid salaries after meeting Governor Moses Akaranga.[Eric Lunga, Standard]

Health workers in Vihiga County have issued a seven-day strike notice over delayed salaries.

They also cite failure by Governor Wilbur Ottichilo's administration to facilitate their promotions and poor working environment.

Through the Vihiga branches of Kenya Union of Nurses (KNUN), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), Kenya Union of Nutritionists and Dietitians (KUNAD) and Kenya Union Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO), the workers have vowed to down tools on October 25 if their plight is not addressed.

The strike notice was signed by KNUN branch secretary-general Caleb Maloba, Hawkins Alingo (KUCO), Nicoleida Alugaya (KUNAD) and Peter Atyang' (KNUMLO).

According to the officials, health workers took their demands to the employer on September 24, but no action was taken.

The KNUN chairperson Zaddock Miheso said the move to go on strike may be unpopular, but the health workers had suffered for a long time.

In a letter addressed to the county secretary, the health workers have raised three demands.

Top on their list is the immediate promotions of the health providers who have stayed in one job group for a long time.

“It’s heartbreaking, demoralising and unfair that after writing and petitioning the County Government on the issue of promotions since 2019, nothing has been done,” said Miheso.

They also want salaries withheld by the county government for January and February 2021 to be paid in full.

On December 7, 2020, a strike by the health workers disrupted medical services in public hospitals in the county for over four months.

Governor Ottichilo's administration punished the striking workers by withholding their January and February salaries.

The health workers claim to have received payslips for the two months, yet the cash did not reflect in their accounts.

“We want withheld salaries paid without further delays. It is unclear how we were issued payslips, yet the money never reached our bank accounts," said Miheso.

They fear that some top county officials could have diverted the money at their expense.

"We also demand re-establishment of the Human Resource Advisory Committee (DHRAC) within the health department to handle our affairs,” he said.

The unions said numerous meetings by the county health department and human resources had not yielded results.

“The remaining option is to keep of our stations until the issues are addressed," said Miheso.

An earlier standoff saw 500 health workers go without salary for at least two years. This is after issues were raised about how they were recruited by County Public Service Board in 2019.

The board advertised for 149 vacancies but ended up recruiting 528 health staff under unclear circumstances, a development that prompted Governor Ottichilo to suspend their pay.

By yesterday, the county government was yet to respond to the health workers demands.

The Controller of Budget had earlier warned that frequent strikes by medical personnel in the county were hurting local revenue generation efforts.

A report by the Controller of Budget dated May 2021 noted that the frequent strikes witnessed in the crucial sector in the recent past significantly affected the revenue collected from public health facilities.

The most affected facilities are the Vihiga County Referral Hospital and the three sub-county hospitals in Sabatia, Hamisi and Emuhaya.

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