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Govt considers alternate arrangements as talks with striking doctors hit wall

Treasury CS Henry Rotich, Health CS Cleopa Mailu and PSC Chair Margaret Kobia/FRANCIS MBATHA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 —  The Government is on Monday going to announce a programme that will see recruitment of doctors locally and elsewhere after the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentist Union (KMPDU) walked out of the negotiation table on Friday.

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu has termed the move to reject the Mombasa State House offer as unfortunate, even after the Government ceded a lot of ground by offering a 40 per cent consolidated increase on their salary.

“I want to assure Kenyans that we shall take any measure possible to ensure Kenyans do not continue to suffer,” he asserted.

The CS said the move to recruit new doctors is necessitated to restore normalcy in the health sector, which has been paralysed by the Doctor’s strike, leading to loss of tens of lives across the country.

Mailu has insisted that the disputed Collective Bargaining Agreement cannot be implemented and the doctors have to renegotiate a fresh one, for them to adhere with the new regulations set by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

According to the CS, the Government has agreed to implement 80 per cent of the disputed CBA, with the main contentious issue being the section requiring a 300 percent pay increment.

“The Government has exercised prudent engagement honestly to the doctors whom we value. They have however not moved an inch,” he lamented. “Since the negotiations started, the doctors have not given an inch towards reconciliation. We know the strike is illegal. Flouting the law is not the way to solve the problems.”

Another area of dispute include the requirement for the National Government to employ 1,200 doctors annually , promote 1,000 health officials per year, but he maintained that they are other factors to be considered while making such demands and that is a sole responsibility of the employer.

On his part, the Treasury CS Henry Rotich described the Doctor’s decision as “painful, but most regrettable considering that the people who are most affected by the prolonged industrial action are our brothers and sisters who are the most vulnerable and needy members of our society.”

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He affirmed the need for a new CBA, which will be implemented within 60 days after doctors resume work, since the current one cannot be implemented as drafted and still it remains a matter before the Court of Appeal.

Rotich said the matter requires a broader stakeholders consultation which will include County Governments, Salaries and Remuneration Commission and the National Treasury.

“By the dint of the said C.B.A the implementation of the Article on remuneration (basic salary and allowances) remains suspended until such a time when the salaries and Remuneration Commission will have provided clear guidelines on setting of salaries and remuneration of doctors in public service,” the CS said.

A letter to KMPDU from SRC indicates that the contentious CBA cannot be cleared for registration since it does not involve all employing agencies- the National and County Governments- as necessitated by the devolved structure.

The CBA, according to the letter read to journalists by the Treasury CS, indicates that it does not conform with the SRC regulations, which requires that all CBAs conform to four years review period.

“The CBA contains policy matters that need to be discussed within the framework of the wider public service since implementation would have implication of other public servants; proposed salary review and other remunerative benefits have impact of the wage bill and therefore, Ministry of Health ought to have demonstrated affordability and sustainability of the same before registration,” reads part of the letter.

Talks are set to resume on Monday, with all stakeholders expected to be on the negotiating table.

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