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Economy

Doctors to miss pay, face sacking for refusal to end strike

A striking doctor holds a placard. The High Court has since declared the strike illegal. PHOTO | FILE
A striking doctor holds a placard. The High Court has since declared the strike illegal. PHOTO | FILE 

Striking doctors, who will not have resumed work by close of business Wednesday won’t be paid their salaries, the Council of Governors (CoG) said yon Monday.

The announcement was made at the end of a six-hour meeting with Ministry of Health officials that sought to end a pay dispute that has lasted 37 days, causing pain and death countrywide.

“County Public Service Boards have been instructed to apply the relevant processes to commence dismissals and to recover any money that may have been paid to doctors who have not been working,” said CoG chairman Peter Munya.

The CoG maintained that the 40 per cent offer that was made to the doctors last week still stands and that defiant medics who will not have reported back to work by end of day Wednesday will face the sack.

The offer, which President Uhuru Kenyatta made to the doctors when he met their representatives at State House Mombasa last week, would see the least-paid doctor take home Sh196,989 a month up from the current Sh140,244.

The pay increase includes allowances due to the doctors in various job groups.

Mr Munya who is also the Meru governor, spoke in Nairobi at the end of the meeting.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials last week disclosed that seven out of the 47 counties had withheld December salaries of more than 300 striking doctors.

Mombasa, Bomet, Kwale, Siaya, Nakuru, Nairobi counties are still holding onto the doctors’ pay.

The CoG said county governments will from Wednesday be free to re-advertise and recruit doctors for vacant positions left by those who will be considered to have absconded duty if they refuse to resume work.

The High Court has since declared the strike illegal.

Mr Munya said that 700 medical students who graduated recently and were to be posted by the national government will now have to wait for the counties to advertise available jobs.

“From today, there will be no direct posting of doctors,” said Mr Munya – meaning the newly-graduated medics have to apply for the vacant positions.

KMPDU secretary-general Ouma Oluga said that the 700 new doctors, who must undergo a one-year internship before being posted, shall join the strike.

“Even when they finish they are joining us. The government needs us and that is why they are panicking,” said Dr Oluga.

KMPDU had threatened to shut down all the nine medical schools starting Wednesday if the government will not have implemented the June 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The doctors want the government to meet their needs, including annual training of specialist doctors, provide research funding and internship programmes, besides a 300 per cent salary increase.

If the June 2013 CBA is implemented, the lowest paid doctor would earn at least Sh300,000 every month.

Dr Oluga said that the medics were not desperate and would continue fighting for future generations and those working hard in school to earn better pay and working conditions.

The government, however, insists that the CBA, which is at the centre of the ongoing doctors’ strike cannot be implemented because it has not been approved by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the CoG.

State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said in a statement on Sunday that the government would have violated the Constitution if it implemented the doctors’ CBA without the SRC’s input.

Kenya Union of Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) chairman Samuel Oroko has, however, rubbished the claims terming it mere propaganda.

“Resisting implementation of doctors’ CBA is akin to killing the public health system to pave the way for privatisation of the same,” said Dr Oroko.

“It is unfortunate that the county governments’ solution to ending this 37- day strike is firing doctors.”

CoG Human Resources, Labour and Social Welfare Committee chairperson, James Ongwae said county governments have no recognition agreement with the doctors, but were collaborating with the national government to restore health services for Kenyans.

County governments employ more than 80 per cent of Kenyan doctors, making them key stakeholders in the negotiations.

“We are working in complete goodwill to negotiate an end to the strike,” Mr Ongwae said while urging the doctors to come to the negotiating table.

Health Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the courts had declared the doctors’ demands defective on October 6, 2016 and no CBA can see the light of day without recognising the role of counties.

“We are willing to deliver a new and complete CBA within 60 days, but this is not possible because of the doctors’ hard stand,” he said.

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