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Nurses Strike: KMPDU Secretary General, Dr Ouma Oluga, Calls Out SRC, Government on CBA

Ask Kenyan doctors. Going on strike in ostrich-head-buried-in-the-sand Kenya is a lonely affair. You get lambasted for demanding what is rightfully yours as a free men providing labor voluntarily. If the doctor’s strike is anything to go by, the just begun Kenyan nurses strike promises to be even more revolting. Blackmail is real as prosaic over night ethicists pelt you with stones over the tired duty vs. personal rights ethical trade off. When the people who matter do eventually speak, you wish they would have remained mum. To the blackmail, add blatant lies. And some buffoonery about SRC and CBA legality -I wonder what would make a CBA illegal given that is a negotiated document. Forced negotiations? Like the unions hold their employers at ransom? Lol.

During the 100 day doctors strike, KMPDU Secretary General Dr Ouma Oluga showed us his new Mau Mau revolution credentials. He spoke we got inspired. His voice didn’t shake while exposing government lies. He payed the ultimate prize and now  Nelson Mandela’s 27 year old sacrifice is real. Now yet again, via his Facebook page, he reminds us of Martin Niemoller’s piece. With these words, Dr Oluga must have given Kenyan Nurses the props needed to survive the lonely path to emancipation.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.


Anyone who reads the constitution Article 230, Article 41, Labour Relations Act, and the County Governments act shall understand that misinterpretation of the law, health policy enforcement vacuum, unclear devolution policy and financial tensions between national and county governments coupled with weak leadership or a complete lack of that leadership are the main reasons why the Ministry of Health and County Governments are struggling to conclude simple documents called Collective Bargaining Agreements.

The impossibilities they both surmount on the paths of public sector health workers would make one think that these documents are some highly valued rare type of gold only found beneath the earth’s core.

Without crises such as strikes, many government officers are zombies who attend meetings just so they are not absent, collect per-diem where applicable or simply to say NO. At best they end the day with ‘I will consult’ while never really returning an answer.

They are not motivated at all to make progress. They don’t prepare for important deliberations with workers unions because they can always simply say NO. Many times, they can lock a meeting’s progress simply on the definition of the word ’employee’ or ‘intern’.

The unions are mostly prepared. Obviously because they are invested in the outcomes to make better the terms and conditions of work for their members. But this too causes a problem. The more a union is prepared with researched facts and policy and legal support on their positions, the more the counterpart negotiators (government) feel inadequate. Naturally inadequacy breeds protectionism and thence obstruction to progress.

So in very technical discussions concerning fundamentals of remuneration or even non-monetary benefits, the government officers often mumble the letters SRC in between their lack of attention.

Now let everyone understand that SRC are three letters every uncommitted officer throws around to hide their inefficiencies or simple not negotiate. The sad bit is that SRC has found a sweet way to use the blame on them to wield an ‘above-the-law’ kind of attitude, reluctance and power so that they suffocate workers. Lately, they even have found double speak comfortable. Giving contradictory advice to unions and completely the reverse to employers.

No court in Kenya can reject registering a signed CBA because it was outside the advice of SRC. SRC has no funds and SRC is not the Treasury. Once an employer is comfortable with budget provisions to pay or meet the agreement terms, SRC advice is nearly a rubber stamp. This in deed has been the case with some parastatals. But with health sector, employers would rather strikes and blame it on SRC.

The end result is that SRC causes more and more confusion wishing that Health Professionals shall forgo their constitutional rights to association, collective bargaining and the right to strike.

Long story short, SRC is not to entirely blame. MOH and County Governments remain the employers and must therefore take the responsibility of health provision including responding to their health employees’ needs. It seems though that they will do anything to pass that buck to SRC. SRC will do a poor job at defending itself and Labour Unrest won’t end until underlying issues I mention at the top are resolved.

Some few government officers actually hold permanent opinions that the suffering Kenyans would award the Government Grade A for being unmoved, non-responsive and or insensitive to the Public Health Sector. These opinions have often given rise to holy righteousness that patriotism cannot be expressed by pointing at the missteps and suggesting alternatives.

Can we now understand why 5 months after the Nurses should have signed their CBA, the country is still blame toasting? Do we now understand why it took 100 days of a strike for the government to commit to signing an already negotiated doctors CBA in 60 days and still fail to do so after their own request of 60 days?

This Feedback, particularly feedback on leadership and governance is usually unwanted and frowned upon. Feedback is punished by more delay or sabotage to unions.

And more and more the Health Sector becomes not only neglected but also mishandled to the peril of Wananchi. The one single problem with health sector in Kenya is no leadership. The second is devolution of health minus supporting structures and policies to guide how workers and finances are handled and protected.

So as Nurses keep away from hospitals, everyone wonders what’s the big deal about this SRC that it must take strikes to work. Surprise not, it take strikes for persons driving GOK fueled and maintained cars to report to their offices while Kenyans unnecessarily suffer the consequences.

Let me finish by telling Kenyans that denying populations health has occasionally been used as a means to dominance. But that story is for another day.

There is no excuse and there never was an excuse worth listening to and worth a strike for not signing and registering the CBAs for doctors and for nurses.

Dr. Ouma Oluga
Secretary General

Dr. Ouma Oluga’s Twitter Salvos

Negotiating with government is a #covfefe affair?

Kenya health crisis to get malignant? Doctors in line

Is SRC advice or lack of it to blame for endless retreats or is it malignant per-deism?

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