Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kenya health workers agree with govt to end 2-week strike

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan public health workers have ended a near two-week strike over pay after reaching a deal with the government which withdrew a threat to sack 25,000 members of their union, officials said on Thursday.

The protest, that left ill patients without medical treatment, was the latest in a string of strikes to grip east Africa's biggest economy in the past year as soaring consumer prices fanned widespread discontent.

"The entire workforce in government hospitals resumed their duties after a return-to-work formula was reached," said Alex Orina, spokesman for the Kenya Health Professionals Society that represents the striking workers.

"Any employee who fails to report on duty by the end of Thursday evening will be dealt with individually according to disciplinary procedures," Orina told Reuters.

He said their workers' demand for pay raises would be addressed in the next government budget that commences in July, and hospitals closed due to the strike have been re-opened.

Kenya's government said last week it had sacked 25,000 public health workers after they refused to end their strike, but had now withdrawn all the dismissal letters. The government had said the health workers were acting unethically.

"All the striking health workers have resumed their duties and now there is no problem in the health sector," Alfred Khangati, an assistant minister in the office of the prime minister which held talks with the workers union.


He told Reuters a team would be formed to look into the problems affecting the health sector, including pay for the workers.

Private hospitals and clinics, where richer families send their sick, have opened as usual because their health workers are not members of the strikers' union.

The striking health workers' union had said the threat of mass sacking was a government ploy to get them to resume work.

Early this month, the government threatened to sack striking workers at the state broadcaster, but rolled back its plan after meeting them, instead agreeing to offer better pay.

Frustration has been mounting in Kenya at the high cost of food and fuel. The government will be keen for the rate of inflation to maintain its downward trend ahead of a general election expected within the next 12 months.

Kenya's inflation rate slowed for the third consecutive month to 16.7 percent in February, after reaching 20 percent in November.

Doctors, university lecturers, primary school teachers and workers at the state broadcaster have also taken strike action within the past year.


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