Kenyan Health Workers Back at Work After Strike

Posted March 14th, 2012 at 3:50 am (UTC-5)
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Kenyan public health workers have ended a work stoppage that had prompted the government to dismiss some 25,000 of them.

A top official in Kenya's civil servants union, Thomas Odege, told VOA Tuesday the health workers, many of them nurses, were back at work Tuesday while unions continued negotiations for a pay raise and other demands.

But Odege called on the government to publicly rescind its decision to fire the striking workers. He said negotiations will be difficult while many workers feel threatened.

“We want an opportunity whereby we can dialogue with the government, but the health workers are also not threatened, they go back and work freely to expect a positive outcome of our negotiations with the government. For us to have a healing process where all Kenyans are going to win, or gain out of the outcome of whatever which has been going on, they have to accept that we were all on the warpath and now we must stop fighting. We go go back and we dialogue.”

The workers have been striking to demand higher wages and increased allowances for transportation and other items. The work stoppage crippled Kenyan public hospitals and clinics.

Odege says so far none of the workers have received dismissal letters, but about 2,300 have received letters asking them to explain why they ought not face disciplinary action.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said last week it was unethical for health professionals to, in his words, “abscond duty,” and said the strike had led to suffering and loss of life.

When announced the firings, he invited qualified health professionals to start applying for the newly open positions.