NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 13 – Doctors on Tuesday rejected a return to work formula reached on Monday night between the government and their union representatives and declared that the strike was still on.
After a four-hour closed door meeting between doctors and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, the medics said that the offer was not inclusive.
“There are two key categories that are missing in this offer that have made it unacceptable to the doctors of Kenya. The first and most important is that the public have not been given anything and there is no difference that will be seen in the institutions as a result of the offer that was given by the government,” the union’s chairman Victor Ng’ani said.
He added that the registrars at Kenyatta National Hospital who were unpaid have not been comprehensively catered for in the offer.
“As the chairman of the doctors union, I did not sign the agreement yesterday (Monday) and the purpose was to consult our members. Consequently, I will not sign the agreement because I answer to doctors as a whole and answer to the people of Kenya,” Ng’ani said.
During the closed door meeting, the doctors complained that Monday night’s decision to call off the strike was hurriedly reached.
They also accused the union of involving the Central Organisation of Trade Union (COTU) which they said was pro-government in the negotiations, while the members were opposed to it.
A meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno, Ministry of Health officials, COTU and the doctors’ union representatives had agreed that a taskforce be formed to deal with the doctors concerns.
There was also a timeline of seven days for a negotiation team to be set up.
“The history that is there to learn from concerning taskforces in our country has informed our membership contrary to accepting such an offer and therefore today we wish to announce that based on the advice of our members the offer that was given by the government has been rejected,” Ng’ani said.
President Mwai Kibaki had in his Jamhuri day speech to the nation on Monday directed the Minister for Public Service Dalmas Otieno and all those concerned in the negotiations to immediately come to a conclusion for the doctors to return to work.
The Secretary General Boniface Chitayi who called off the weeklong strike on Monday night claimed they were under duress to reach an agreement.
“As for yesterday, there was an offer that was made and you see when you are given a gift to take to your child at home, you can take it but it is upon the child to accept or reject the gift,” Chitayi said.
“So unfortunately, the gift has been rejected and so we have to go back to the drawing board and seek an amicable solution soon,” he added.
Chitayi had earlier in the meeting told the doctors that the government threatened to withdraw its offer and take the union to court if they continued with the strike.
“Negotiations according to the labour relations act cannot proceed when a strike is on, that’s a fact so the strike had to be called off and then we have negotiations with the government in an open environment,” Chitayi explained as he defended the decision.
But the doctors said they were ready to defend themselves if the government opted to go to court and were not scared of the government’s threat to withdraw the offer.
The Union also feared that it would be deregistered if the strike continued.
The strike has now entered its second week.