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Kenyan President Kenyatta orders striking doctors to resume work

by Robert Manyara NAIVASHA (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and County governors on Tuesday issued an ultimatum to doctors who have been striking for the last three months to return to work or face severe consequences.

Kenyatta, who held a joint news conference in Naivasha, about 90 km northwest of Nairobi, also cancelled a 145 million U.S. dollars offer it earlier made to backdate allowances to July 2016 out of goodwill, which the striking doctors had repudiated.

"This additional offer was on condition that the doctors call off the strike and report back to work, this morning.

"Consequently for failure to call off the strike, the government has now rescinded this offer and there will be no further negotiations on remuneration (salaries and allowances)," they said in a joint statement.

Governors also asked Kenyatta to issue an executive order taking away the role of registering doctors from their union back to the government.

The government made it clear that strenuous efforts had been made to reach an amicable solution with the doctors but they have remained intransigent.

The standoff between the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the government continues with union officials maintaining a hard-liner stance, refusing to call off the strike until the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is fully implemented.

KMPDU is demanding a 300 percent salary increase for its members as agreed in the CBA says the lowest paid doctor to get earn 3,450 U.S. dollars while the highest should be earning 9,450 dollars.

However, the government has offered a 500 dollars or 50 percent increase for the lowest paid doctors, which would have raised their salaries to 1,760 dollars but unions rejected it and walked out of talks.

The doctors rejected a 50 percent salary increment and an additional 6 million dollars, as backdated allowances, that was offered as a sign of goodwill.

These offers would have pushed the doctors annual wage bill to an excess of 145 million dollars.

But doctors rejected the offer, and returned to their demand for a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be signed.

Governors noted that the 2013 document referred to by doctors is obsolete, and that a new CBA could only be agreed in consultation with individual counties and the Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

"It is now time for the die to fall as they may; and for each individual doctor, pharmacists and dentists within the public service to negotiate with his/ her particular employer, be it the national government in the case of those working in national facilities, or in the particular county government," they said.

The government said doctors who continued being on duty will receive the new allowances.

Those who went on strike but want to resume work should do so immediately.

All postgraduate medical students (registrars) who are sponsored by the government are to report to their respective Duty Stations with immediate effect.

The government directed medical Interns who are currently on internship to report back to their respective internship centers with immediate effect, in order to complete their internship and facilitate registration by the Board.

Earlier, Kenyatta had launched a passionate address on the strike, saying that it was time for doctors to uphold their oath to protect life, and to uphold the principle of fairness.

Kenyatta said his patience, and that of governors, with the striking doctors has run out because they were taking Kenyans for a ride.

The President said the government had offered the doctors pay that was even higher that earned by doctors in private practice.

He said the doctors were trying to blackmail the government by denying their services to the poor while serving the well to do.

"We need clarity about the consequences of their strike: the better off still have access to a doctor’s care, while poorer Kenyans must do without," said the President when he officially opened the 4th Annual Devolution Conference.

"We have offered these doctors more money than those working in private hospitals.

"All that money just for working for a few hours in public hospitals before they rush to their private practices.

"They should not take us for fools," Kenyatta said.
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UPDATE:

Kenyan doctors may soften position on pay talks

by Chrispinus Omar and Chris Mgidu NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan doctors softened their stance Wednesday after a protracted three months of talks on a new pay offer after the government abandoned talks and ordered governors to issue sack letters to doctors who fail to immediately return to work.

"The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is ready for signature.

"What is left is the signing of a return to work agreement, which will define the technical formula for the doctors to return to work in an orderly manner," said Lukoye Atwoli, a member of Kenya Medical Association (KMA).

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the Council of Governors, under whose docket, the government devolved the medical services, to abandon talks with the medical workers union on Tuesday.

The talks were proceeding with the religious leaders, including bishops and sheikhs of the mainstream churches and Muslims towards a solution to the long-drawn strike by the Kenyan doctors.

"We have shown good faith in the negotiations.

"We are ready and prepared to continue with these talks.

"We have recommitted to the talks for the last time.

"These negotiations should be done in good faith," said Atwoli, speaking on behalf of the medical workers on strike since December 5, 2016.

The doctors have been demanding an unspecified salary increment and improved working conditions at the public hospitals, where some 5,000 members are employed.

The government on Tuesday ordered the doctors to return to work, saying each and every doctor should negotiate their terms of work with their employers.

But the doctors union said the CBA, which defines the terms and conditions of service for union members of a professional body, was finalized and signed.

"The Union is ready to finalize the remaining portions.

"The doctors would return to work as soon as these sections are agreed upon," Atwoli said after holding talks with officials from the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) who has called for the three-month old strike.

However, KMPDU Secretary General Dr Ouma Oluga and other union officials have urged the doctors to maintain their resolve insisting that the recognition agreement and CBA must be signed to end the 94-day strike.

"We await to conclude the signing of CBA and then after return to work formula as was guided by the Court of Appeal under the Mediation of Religious Leaders. We hope this shall be done soon," Oluga said in a statement.

Despite government withdrawing a deal negotiated during the meditation process, the doctors now say that they cannot be coerced and bulldozed into returning to work without inking the negotiated deal.

"While the payroll and the hospital belongs to the government, your skill is selfishly yours.

"But let nobody make you think that it must be forced on you to use it," said Oluga.

But the council of governors remains adamant that the deal is no longer on the table, accusing the union of sabotaging the health sector.

Doctors are currently expected to work under the supervision of some 47 County governors, who are responsible for public health as the second tier of a devolved government structure.

A deal with the government was signed in 2013, but the government disowned the agreement saying the government officials who signed it did so illegally after their tenure in government ended.

"The process of returning to work is contingent upon the signing of a return to work agreement," said Atwoli.

Meanwhile, public hospitals began to issue sacking letters to doctors on Wednesday.

The Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) sacked 12 doctors and issued warning letters to 48 others for deserting duty, KNH Managing Director Lily Koros announced on Wednesday.

"From Dec 3, we warned our doctors not to take part in the strike.

Some immediately abandoned duties and some are still in the process—that is why I am talking about 12 who have been dismissed but there are those on whom disciplinary action is still going on," Koros said.

She said the hospital sent out circulars informing doctors that the strike was unlawful and also issued warning to the doctors and other staff that disciplinary action would be taken against those who participated in the strike.

Koros directed all doctors employed by the country’s main referral hospital "to report back to work with immediate effect or face disciplinary action which may include summary dismissal, eviction from hospital quarters or any other administrative action deemed necessary."

Hospitals have been without doctors since the doctors went on strike.

However, the state hospitals say they have the right to take disciplinary action against those on strike.

The doctors union said it is working on ensuring none of its members is sacked for participating in the strike.

 

             

 

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