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Doctors ready to cede demands but government must reciprocate

KMPDU officials appear before the Senate Committee on Health on Tuesday/SIMON NDONGA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials have agreed to compromise on their hard line strike position during talks set to start Wednesday with various government agencies.

This follows an appeal by the Senate Health Committee Chairman Senator Wilfred Machage (Migori) who urged the medics to soften their stance on the collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2013, which forms basis for their industrial action.

“You have gone ahead and described the registration of the CBA which according to my knowledge up to now has never been done and it may not have been done on purpose and you rightfully say maybe it is a game being played with the doctors,” he said.

He underscored the need for them not to be blinded by the document, which has been contested in court.

“But the fact is that the CBA is an unregistered document and at one point in the case, it will come back like a scorpion and bite you,” he cautioned.

Machage also expressed concern that the strike was exposing Kenyans to quacks and illegal practitioners.

“You doctors should have petitioned the Senate when they realised that the government did not wish to register the CBA in 2013. Now our hands are tied and Kenyans are being exposed to quacks and conmen,” he stated.

He also pleaded with the government to be ready to compromise on their hardline position.

While describing the strike as a last resort, the union’s Secretary General Ouma Oluga stated that doctors will now engage with an open mind.

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“What we as a union have seen is that we are being frustrated at whatever cost and the issues that we present are not important to the people that we present them to,” he said.

“That is why this strike has continued for so long because in the negotiations, the Ministry has stated very clearly that they are not going to negotiate based on the CBA,” he stated.

He also blamed the government for being dodgy in the previous talks saying that doctors have been very patient.

“It was the duty of the employer to register the document. Doctors have been very patient with the process and we did everything in our power that was required of.”

The committee has also summoned top Health Ministry officials over the doctors’ strike that started two months ago and had indicated that Parliament is ready to act as an arbitrator between the ministry and doctors’ union officials.

Machage explained that the legislators will be seeking to establish the progress made so far in the pay talks that appear to have stalled since December.

He indicated that Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri will personally face the committee to explain the steps taken so far to get the doctors back to hospitals.

In the meantime, the Central Organisation of Trade unions and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights are set to begin talks with a view to resolve the strike from Wednesday.

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