In 2013, a senior officer in the Kibaki government, on behalf of the Health Ministry, appended his signature on a document that has since become contentious.
Mr Mark Bor’s signature – then the Permanent Secretary for health – symbolised that the government had agreed to increase salaries for doctors, dentists and other medical professionals.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (now referred to as the 2013 CBA) was not only intended to bolster Kenya’s public health system, but also set aside money to fund medical research and provide doctors with ongoing training to improve their skills.
The agreement was also meant to create 400 new residency positions, establish overtime pay, create a grievance procedure for equipment shortages, and have 1,200 doctors hired annually for four years to address the severe nationwide shortage.
But it is these issues, led by a disputes on the salaries, that have seen the government and doctors involved in protracted battles to a point of seeking the intervention of mediators.
Currently, starting doctors earn Sh1.5 million annually, translating to Sh121,910 monthly. Under the new agreement, they would earn a minimum of Sh3.8 million annually (Sh325,730 monthly). Mid-level doctors would see their annual salary go from Sh1.6 million to Sh4 million per year.
But four years on, the government is yet to begin implementing the changes.
Instead, the government has dismissed the document as illegal claiming the officer who signed it was fired two days before signing the CBA. The CBA was also not registered in court as is required due to unresolved issues in some articles.
To resolve the stalemate, the government offered the doctors a 40 per cent pay deal and later added Sh10,000 for risk allowance, if only to get the doctors back to work.
But they refused to take the deal standing their ground on the CBA which if implemented would see the least paid doctor (on internship) take home at least Sh325,000 monthly while the highest paid (a senior doctor) bag nothing less than Sh825,180.
Hundreds of medical workers descended upon a Nairobi court last week demanding clemency for the seven doctors’ union leaders sentenced to jail on Monday after the court ruled last month that the strike they were leading was illegal.
Plans to resolve the stalemate through talks are said to have hit a wall with a source privy to the discussions saying: “There is a rift, with one side asking for the strike to be called off while the other is against it.”
In the meantime, doctors have suspended any engagement with the government on the 2013 CBA until their officials are out of jail.