25 January 2017

Kenya: Fresh Bid to End Doctors' Strike Collapses As CS Mailu Accuses Union Leaders of Indecision

Photo: Jeff Angote/Daily Nation
A maternity ward at Kenyatta National Hospital (file photo)

The Ministry of Health believes the doctors' strike has dragged on for 52 days today because the negotiating team from the doctors union does not "have the mandate to make the final decision."

Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said as a result the talks have stalled much to the detriment of suffering Kenyans. He said the union leaders "constantly changed" their decisions.

"I personally feel that the negotiating team does not have full mandate as they say they need to consult with members outside the negotiating table who do not understand the negotiations," Dr Mailu told journalists in Afya House.

"When a union agrees to a position and changes in the next minute, it becomes very difficult to negotiate and reach an agreement and that is what we have been subjected to as a ministry as a government for the last 52 days," he emphasised.

In the late night press conference Tuesday, Dr Mailu maintained the government had conceded to the demands of the doctors to give them better allowances and promotion of doctors to one job group higher where they currently are.

This was preceded by a 6am meeting between Dr Mailu and two representatives of the doctors union--its chairperson and its Secretary General--in Afya House where the doctors are said to have given two conditions that of met, would bring an end to the strike.

"They said they accepted the allowances given in Mombasa [under President Uhuru Kenyatta's 40 per cent offer that would see a medical intern take home a minimum of Sh196,989 and the highest earning doctors receiving Sh542, 954 per month] and should be retained from January 1, 2017."

The other request was that the government also considered promoting the rest of the doctor's a job group higher from January 1, 2017. That is, if a doctor was on job group P they would move to Q. These, Dr Mailu said would have financial implications but "given what it is, it is the responsibility to look for resources to address that."

He added: "This afternoon (Tuesday) we made that offer, we conceded and agreed on assumption that they will agree. They were called for a meeting later in the day, since around 3.30pm but to our surprise, the doctors negated on that and actually walked out of the discussions in a huff which left questions in our minds."

"We can only conclude that it is not in their wish that the suffering of Kenyans stop."

Further, Dr Mailu says the union had said they would be able to give a response on Friday January 27, 2017 to this offer. This is a day after seven officials of the doctors union are jailed for contempt of court. Given that the seven are part of the larger negotiating team, Dr Mailu said it was upon the union to come up with a team that is acceptable to the union to continue with the talks with the government.

On their part, the doctors said they walked out of the meeting because the government "gave them a new Collective Bargaining Agreement" contrary to what they wanted, the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement which is unregistered and thus cannot be implemented.

The meeting, the doctors say was attended by five representatives from the government's side led by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu, Director of Medical Services Jack Kioko and three other officials.

The Kenya Medical Practictioners Pharmacists and Dentist Union was represented by its Chairperson Samuel Oroko, Secretary General Ouma Oluga, Treasurer Evelyne Chege and three other union members.

On Tuesday, the doctors convened at the Railway Club in Nairobi where in an emotional session prayed for their leaders who will be jailed tomorrow, Thursday, for calling the nationwide strike on December 5, 2016 despite a court order barring it.

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