Kenyan doctors Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi
Kenyan doctors Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi

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.

Kenyan doctors  Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi
Kenyan doctors Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi
“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. Enditem

by Chrispinus Omar and Chris Mgidu, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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