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Health ministry to end doctors strike amid jailing of union officials | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- KPPDU officials Dr. Evelyne Chege [left] and Dr. Allan Ochanji are seen after the Employment and Labour Relations court ordered the Doctors Union officials be jailed for one month outside Milimani Commercial courts in Nairobi. The court ruled that the strike was illegal in last December. In January, Justice Hellen Wasilwa sentenced leaders to jail for ignoring her earlier ruling, but suspended the sentence to allow negotiations. On Monday, she ordered union officials arrested. Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since Dec. 5 over payments and conditions. Striking Doctors [right] demonstrate at the entrance of a court after a judge jailed their union officials for one month for failure to call off the strike in Nairobi. The Kenyan ministry of health said on Monday that it is committed to ending the doctors’ strike despite jailing of union officials over contempt of court. XINHUA PHOTOS - FRED MUTUNE and CHARLES ONYANGO

Health ministry to end doctors strike amid jailing of union officials

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan ministry of health said on Monday that it is committed to ending the doctors’ strike despite jailing of union officials over contempt of court.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu regretted the jailing of union officials earlier, but said it will not affect the government’s resolve to find an amicable solution to the doctors’ strike.

"We are concerned by the industrial unrest in the health sector and are open to dialogue with doctors and their union representatives to end this impasse," Mailu told journalists in Nairobi while clarifying that union officials’ one month jail sentence was occasioned by contempt of court and not their agitation for better remuneration.

More than 5,000 Kenyan doctors went on strike on December 5, 2016 over failure by the government to implement a 300 percent salary hike deal signed in 2013.

The 68 day-old strike by Kenyan medics has paralyzed the entire health sector while putting the lives of terminally ill patients in grave danger.

Negotiations between the government and unions to end the strike that have been ongoing since mid December are yet to bear fruit.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Jan. 4 offered a 40 percent salary increase to the striking doctors and urged them to honor a return to work formula to end paralysis in the health sector.

Failure by the doctors’ union to end the strike prompted the Council of Governors to file a case against them at the employment and labor relations court.

A judge at the industrial court declared the doctors’ strike illegal and ordered union officials to suspend it promptly. A mediation team drawn from state agencies and the umbrella trade union body tried to negotiate with Doctors’ union a return to work formula.

The negotiations collapsed last week after union officials insisted the state must implement the comprehensive bargaining agreement (CBA) in full before calling off the strike by medics.

During her ruling on Monday, Judge Hellen Wasilwa of the employment and labor relations court pronounced a one month jail sentence to seven Doctors’ union officials for ignoring a court order to suspend the strike.

The jailing of senior officials from Kenya Medical Practioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) drew condemnation from doctors who vowed to suspend talks with the government until their bosses were set free.

The doctors appointed a stand in committee to handle their affairs as they await release of the jailed union bosses.

However, the temporary committee has no powers to negotiate for the salary hike with the government on behalf of doctors.

As doctors vowed to hold a night vigil in the prisons where their union officials were incarcerated, the government maintained it was open to dialogue to end a health sector paralysis that has claimed dozens of lives.

Mailu disclosed that senior echelons of government will be involved in the latest efforts to end the doctors’ strike.

"As a government we have always pursued a return to work formula with doctors to restore critical services in the health sector.

"The court’s judgment will not affect ongoing talks with their unions to end the strike," said Mailu.

At the same time, the health cabinet secretary urged doctors’ to drop hard-line positions and settle for perks that can be implemented in phases.



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