, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – Doctors began their day by camping outside the Milimani Commercial Courts, where their union officials were appearing before court a for decision on whether they will begin their one month jail terms.
The signature solidarity tunes among others calling for the implementation of the controversial 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement rent the air, as anti-riot police officers watched from a distance just in case they are called to duty.
Their mission was clear: “we want the Collective Bargaining Agreement implemented.”
They were relieved after the court gave the seven officials a five-day grace period to call off the ongoing strike, saving them from beginning their monthlong jail sentences.
“I will suspend this sentence further so the doctors will not be going to jail today, they have five more days. These five days are not for negotiations in my view. They are for calling off the strike because I am dealing with the case of contempt. The negotiations are besides that so you are allowed to continue with the negotiations. So we come back on the 31st of January,” Justice Hellen Wasilwa directed.
The officials and hundreds of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) members marched to their Railways Club offices more emboldened than before.
“Mailu must go (Health CS Cleopa Mailu), Lipa Kama Tender (pay fast like you pay for tenders) doctors are never poor but if so, they are only poor in pay,” went the chants as other waved placards.
And even with the imminent jail terms, the officials vowed to remain put unless the disputed 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is registered and consequently implemented.
“Maybe the CBA that we have been fighting for is inside those cells,” the officials said to elated members.
Under their umbrella body the KMPDU, the doctors accused the government of being insincere in the ongoing negotiations.
The KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga said any talks from now must be through a mediator and it should be in public, so that they can eliminate any ill motive from either party.
“We are appalled by how long this strike has been mishandled particularly by the Ministry of Health,” he complained. “The Cabinet Secretary is very keen on frustrating every single effort. It is his wish that we get jailed.”
They now claim that the talks have stalled because some certain officials within the government want to protect the interests of the private sector, which stands to lose if the government will increase their salary by 300 hundred percent, as recommended in the CBA.
“Doctors are not enjoying being on strike and we do not want to go back to the streets again. Let them implement the CBA,” he said.
“There are very clear demands and solutions that the President presented, but there is something holding them back. They have been coming with dirty hands.”
He threatened that they may also close private clinics to ensure the government heeds to their demands.
During her ruling, Justice Wasilwa clarified that the stay order was for the union officials to cease their industrial action regardless of their talks with the Health Ministry.
While observing that the matter was grave, she advised them to take advantage of the grace period and should that not happen, there will be no option but for them to serve their jail terms.
The court had ordered them to end the strike by Thursday or prepare to start a one month jail term for contempt of earlier orders, but their lawyers pleaded and asked for more time to resolve the matter.