Opinion

SRC 'advice' on pay is pathetically ill-timed

SRC 'advice' on pay is pathetically ill-timed
  • Kenyans, on the other hand, are going out of their way to appreciate the work being done by the health workforce.
  • SRC commissioners must reflect on the simple fact that there will be no wage bill to speak of if the health workforce gets demoralised.

Kenya is an interesting country, like the man said.

As the nation grapples with the rising burden of Covid-19, and everyone is coming up with innovative interventions to make it easier for us to control this pandemic, there are others who are spending their time thinking up new ways of making this work much more difficult.

It is as if some Kenyans are on a constant search for notoriety, even in the most difficult of times.

As the pandemic has spread across the country, some county governments have recognised the central role played by health workers, who are putting their own lives on the line to protect everyone else.

They have, therefore, proposed to pay special allowances to health workers and to find other ways of motivating them. Other counties are identifying places like hotels for temporary accommodation of health workers involved in management of patients with Covid-19.

Kenyans, on the other hand, are going out of their way to appreciate the work being done by the health workforce.

People are thinking up innovative ways of offering support, with some donating personal protective equipment, and others preparing special meals for care teams.

PAY ILLEGAL

We are seeing positive and supportive messages directed at our health workers, and for the first time in a long while our health workers are beginning to feel appreciated again.

Just as we are beginning to get comfortable with this new ‘normal’, one of the constitutional commissions emerges from its dark hiding place and issues one of the most insensitive proclamations at this time.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) issued a statement declaring the payment of any additional allowances to be unconstitutional and illegal.

Towards the end of this past week, the chairperson of the SRC even went on national TV to gloat about how their advice is “binding and must be followed”, opening up old wounds that continue to bother health workers across this country.

The SRC has traditionally been at the head of the anti-health worker movement, blocking any attempts at improving their welfare with the tired mantra of a ‘ballooning wage bill’.

Showing up during a pandemic to remind health workers that they are just ordinary employees who do not deserve any special treatment is the height of insensitivity.

AGENCY BIASED

We have argued in the past that SRC abandoned its constitutional mandate of setting the salaries of State Officers and advising on the pay of other public officers, and instead went to court to reinterpret its mandate in reverse.

Today, this constitutional body only advises, mostly in vain, on the pay of State Officers, while purporting to set the remuneration of other public officers.

The commission discovered early in its existence that it is impossible to fight the gluttonous political class, and decided instead to throw its entire weight on the backs of poor public servants enduring pathetic pay.

SRC commissioners must retreat back into their dark cocoon and reflect on the simple fact that there will be no wage bill to speak of if the health workforce gets demoralised and loses the capacity to manage this pandemic.

Lukoye Atwoli is associate professor of psychiatry at Moi University School of Medicine;