Doctors announce nationwide strike in 2013 pay row

Doctors have announced a nationwide strike from next week over failed implementation of a 2013 agreement that improved their working conditions.

The strike will be launched in Nakuru on Sunday but begin on Monday if the government will not have responded to their union’s 21-day notice to finalise issues in the agreement.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union said the industrial action follows the government’s failure to honour a Labour Court judgment upholding the agreement between the Ministry of Health and the medics.

On October 6, Justice Monicah Mbaru directed the parties, including the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, to reconvene and solve contentious issues including salaries in 45 days. The judge also directed the Ministry to submit the pact in court for registration within 90 days after it was finalised.

According to union, however, the government has not shown an interest in concluding the matter as directed by the court.

The union’s national chairman, Dr Samuel Oroko, told the Nation on Tuesday that the doctors had issued the strike notice on November 14, calling the government to the negotiating table.

“As of now, there are no negotiations,” said Dr Oroko. “We have not held any meeting and, if they will not have given us any offer by Sunday, we will go on strike.”

COUNTRYWIDE STRIKE

The disputed deal was struck after two years of negotiations in a return-to-work formula. This came after a major countrywide strike in 2011 which paralysed health services in public hospitals.

The agreement addressed a new remuneration scheme for doctors, promotions, entry levels, training, salaries and allowances, among other working conditions.

The ministry failed to present the agreement to court for registration as required by law.

Among others, the government argued that the agreement was not concluded as the two sides had not agreed on issues such as the entry level for interns, basic salary and residency.

The government also argued that county governments, though playing a crucial role in health services, was not involved in the talks.

It argued that the deal was signed when health services had been devolved and that county governments should be involved since health workers had been devolved and the ministry was only in charge of hospitals under the national government, as well as the health policy.

REJECT THE PACT

It also claimed that the officer who signed the agreement on behalf of the ministry had left office as Permanent Secretary by the time of signing and a new PS appointed, hence rendering the agreement invalid.

Further, the salaries team argued that it was not consulted before the agreement was signed.

However, union argued in court that devolution should not be used to defeat the agreement. They said only the court could reject the pact.
Justice Mbaru dismissed the government’s argument.

On Tuesday, Dr Oroko said the agreement was signed in June 2013, before counties took over the payroll in January 2014. He also cited a three-year transition period in the transfer of health services to counties, during which the agreement remained binding to doctors in service then.

The judge has issued fresh timelines by which the parties were to adhere to to ensure the CBA was finalised upon which they were required to submit the agreement to court for registration within 90 days.

Dr Oroko said the strike will be launched at the Nakuru Level Five hospital on Sunday December 4th where all medical practitioners across the country are required to down their tools.

In the agreement, the medics were demanding salary increment based on the various job groups.

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