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No end in sight for strikes by doctors, dons

Residents of Nairobi’s slums protest at freedom corner, Uhuru Park, against the doctors’ strike, saying they were the hardest hit as major consumers of public health services. (Photo: Elvis Ogina/Standard)

The crisis in universities and hospitals is likely to last longer after the Government failed to raise an additional Sh15 billion to settle demands by doctors and lecturers.

Lecturers yesterday rejected Parliament’s request to call off their strike and insisted that they would only resume work if the Government brought an additional Sh7 billion to the table.

This would raise their pay increase bill to Sh17 billion, as the Government offered Sh10 billion.

Doctors have also demanded Sh12 billion to effectively settle their demands. The Government has offered only Sh4 billion.

President Uhuru Kenyatta offered doctors a pay deal that would see the minimum gross salary for doctors increase to Sh196,989 from the current Sh140,244 at full implementation.

This would translate into an additional expenditure of Sh4 billion annually – shared among the 5,000 doctors.

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The Government explained that the offer would put doctors’ remuneration in line with the labour market.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu maintained the Government offer was still open.

“What the Government has offered has not changed. Let the doctors tell us what they have ceded since last week,” Dr Mailu said.

However, senior Government officials familiar with the talks said yesterday it would be difficult to raise the money demanded to settle the pay increments for both sectors.

“The Government is already working on teachers’ Sh50 billion payout, which starts in July. It will be difficult to raise the additional Sh15 billion for doctors and lecturers,” said the official.

“In all fairness, these talks may drag on for a long time but ultimately, unfortunately, there will be no money,” he said.

Yesterday, the striking lecturers ignored pleas by the Senate to call off their strike as the House team intensified arbitration efforts to resolve the pay dispute, maintaining that only a “meaningful” enhanced pay would lead them to return to work.

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ENHANCE OFFER

The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) officials led by Secretary General Constantine Wasonga and Chairman Muga K’Olale told the Senate Education committee that they would only end the strike if the Government agreed to “enhance” its offer of Sh10 billion by Sh7 billion at the very least.

The committee chaired by Kirinyaga Senator Daniel Karaba had pleaded with the lecturers to consider calling off the strike to give them a chance to broker a deal with the Government.

But Mr Wasonga termed the Sh10 billion offer a drop in the ocean because it would be shared among the Kenya University Staff Union, Uasu and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions and Hospitals Association.

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