Kenya's nurses call off their strike as lecturers take action

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Nurses in Kenya have ended a five-month-old strike over delays to agreed wage rises, a union official said on Thursday, just as university lecturers began a similar action over their pay and benefits.

The nurses’ strike had brought health services to a halt in many parts of the country, with patients being sent away from some government-run hospitals.

Their pay deal was meant to have been approved in June by the union, the national government and county governments, but the state commission that advises on public sector pay rejected it shortly afterwards.

“We have asked all nurses to resume duty latest by Friday,” union head Seth Panyako told Reuters, adding that an agreement had been reached with the government.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term in a re-run election on Oct. 26 after his initial victory in August was nullified by the electoral commission because of procedural irregularities.

Panyako said a collective bargaining agreement would be signed in 30 days’ time.

Kenyan public servants often strike over pay inequalities.

The country’s members of parliament are among the world’s most well-paid, taking home around 1.2 million shillings ($11,577.42) per month, including allowances, says Justine Musila of the parliamentary watchdog website Mzalendo.

In contrast, basic salaries for lecturers at public universities range from 69,000 shillings to 200,000 shillings each month, before allowances. A newly-qualified doctor typically earns about 156,000 shillings a month.

On Thursday, lecturers also launched a strike to protest against what they described as the government’s continued failure to implement a deal signed in March to boost salaries and housing allowances.

That pact, which provided for a pay hike of 17.5 percent and an increase of 3.9 percent in housing allowances, ended a previous 54-day strike over pay that also affected the more than half a million students in Kenya’s 31 public universities.

“All academic staff at the 31 public universities are on strike from November 1,” Constantine Wasonga, secretary general of the University Academic Staff Union, said in a statement seen by Reuters on Thursday. “The strike remains in force until the collective bargaining agreement is implemented in total.”

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana and Humphrey Malalo; Editing by Aaron Maasho and Catherine Evans