As Kenya’s August elections draw closer with each day, a striking Kenya is the last thing that the sitting administration needs. It is, however, what they have.
Not minding the threats and the incentives offered up by the government, Kenya’s medical doctors who work in the public sector have refused to go back to work. Their strike action has crippled the health sector of Kenya and made life harder for Kenyans who now have to seek treatment in private hospitals that are pretty expensive.
On Thursday, University lecturers began their own strike, solidifying the notion of a striking Kenya. The strike by the University lecturers was called by the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) to protest government failure to implement a four-year-old agreement to increase wages by at least 50 percent.
Kenya’s striking medical doctors are also asking the government to make good on an old agreement. On the part of the Universities, the Union chairman Muga K’Olale said failure to have their demands met had led to a “massive brain drain in public universities”.
The striking medical doctors had also painted a similar picture, insisting that the government’s failure to fulfill the agreement made to them was having a negative impact on their ability to do their jobs.
In a statement declaring the strike late on Wednesday, the UASU called on President Uhuru Kenyatta and his ministers to honour a pay deal proposed in the 2012 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The union’s secretary-general Constantine Wasonga appealed to the government, “to urgently jumpstart, negotiate, conclude, sign and implement the CBA.”
Currently, junior lecturers in Kenya earn around $500 (470 euros) a month while professors earn up to $2,000 (1,900 euros). The UASU’s chairman said;
“It is only this strike that will add premium to the lives of university workers, without this strike we’re done.”
It is interesting that this widespread union action is coming months before the August general election. Most Kenyans, who are finding it hard to seek medical care, and others who will be affected by the University lecturers strike are almost certainly going to equate this striking Kenya to the failings of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government and may choose to cast their lot with the unifying opposition.