By Halima Adan Ahmed
Over the years I have been engaged in the fight to improve the welfare of nurses in this country and specifically in Machakos county.
Recently together with other unionists, we moved to the Employment and Labour Relations court to stop a fraudulent election called by the Kenya National Union of Nurses General secretary Seth Panyako because of what we believe is blatant breach of the nurses constitution.
I made this decision because I believe time is ripe to redeem the nurses profession and return it to it’s old glory.
Many people might not understand the goings on in this noble profession so I will attempt to explain the reasons that have informed my decision to vie for the position of national general secretary of KNUN and why I believe Mr. Seth Panyako must pave the way for new leadership.
I made this solemn decision to run so that we as the members of KNUN can have a stronger bargaining position. This means that we can be able to reach out, recruit and organize nurses who do not yet belong to our movement.
Most of our branches across the country are terribly weak and require strengthening. I am running so that we can support and empower our branch and country representatives, organizers and officers, so we get better at growing the union and winning negotiations.
In the previous years, our negotiations as a union have been unsuccessful mostly because we have lacked skilled and experienced representatives at various levels. I believe that a new office under new leadership will provide our branch representatives with better guidance, advice and help when they need it. That new leadership should also create a new network of experienced individuals with union passion who can support individual cases with their knowledge and skills in representation.
At the heart of my proposals is the need to ensure the voice of Kenyan nurses is heard and respected in government through Ministries of Labor and Health and in the County Governments through the Council of Governors (COG), and further in the industry through Public Service Commissions, County Public Services Boards and the Salaries and Remuneration Commissions.
The growing problem of precariousness experienced by so many Kenyan nurses due to burnouts, demotivation, and poor working environment is really wanting and need to be addressed as immediate as possible. We need to set out radical framework that gathers evidence through the National nurses association of Kenya, the Kenya Progressive nurses Association, the Nursing council and other professional bodies and sustainably working on addressing them through tangible advocacy for solutions and applications.
As has often been said, collective bargaining without the right to strike is collective begging. One serious issue that I plan to handle immediately is the statutory protection.
In Kenya, the law was developed in such a way that industrial action is always unlawful unless the union can demonstrate it satisfies the complex requirements to gain any form of protections.
My experience in unionism has taught me that raising labour standards is by nature a journey – a long process that needs perseverance and sacrifice, it equates to navigating unchartered water, it needs commitment and passion to elevate labor standards and improve working conditions for all Kenyan Nurses. That perseverance and sacrifice coupled with passion is what has been lacking and in its place we have witnessed reckless bravado that has yielded little and sometimes no fruits for our members.
The current leadership has not educated nurses on their rights as employees, sensitization on labor laws has also not been done and therefore there is no enough knowledge and skills within the nursing profession to meet the needs of nurses in terms of representation and protection of rights. That needs to change.
I am contesting in this election so that under my leadership, we can carry out countrywide assessment of nurses knowledge and skills in regards to their trade union and labor rights.
Nurses need to do much more to fight for their rights. They need a new General Secretary who will change the union so it is stronger, smarter and more effective. When we are strong we bargain, when we are weak we beg.
I am running to become the KNUN national general secretary so that we can embark on journey to redeem and redefine this noble profession so that we can reclaim its lost glory of advancing nurses growth and development and improve nursing working standards.
The writer is an aspirant for the position of KNUN General Secretary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org