NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 22 – Negotiations to end the 80-day doctors’ strike suffered a major setback after its legality was brought into question when former Public Health and Sanitation Principal Secretary Mark Bor confirmed that he signed the controversial Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) after he had already left office in June 2013.
Bor told a joint sitting of the House Committees on Labour and Social Welfare and that of Health that he was asked by the then Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to sign the document to pave way for the doctors to negotiate a final document with the government.
His signature was to symbolise that the government had agreed to increase salaries for doctors, dentists and other medical professionals.
Bor claimed the new team at the ministry wanted a working document to guide them because the doctors union had started shifting stands arrived at the talks at the time, while insisting it was an interim document that was to guide negotiations at a later stage.
The CBA signed by the government and former KMPDU Secretary General Sultani Matendechero and Chairman Victor Ng’ani on June 27, 2013 would see a 187 per cent pay hike for all medical practitioners.
The agreement also included a review of job groups, promotions, deployment as well as the annual recruitment of 1,200 doctors to reduce the doctor-patient ratio.
The joint House Committee chairpersons David Were and Rachael Nyamai declared Bor a hostile witness for failing to cooperate with them and ordered him to leave the mini-chambers
The fate of the talks now hangs in the balance after Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu ruled out further negotiations based on the flawed document but the doctors’ union led by their officials Samuel Oroko and Ouma Oluga insisted that “they will not negotiate anything outside of the 2013 CBA.”
“The circumstances under which it was signed are suspect; there are contents of that document that we cannot relate with, and in the absence of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the Council of Governors, then it is not a document we would like to participate in its implementation,” Mailu stated.
Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya said it was bizarre that the country has been relying on a fraudulent document but said the revelation “provides an avenue for truly open and fair negotiations to begin between doctors union and the two levels of government.”
Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) Chairperson Sarah Serem recounted how she telephoned Bor to protest his actions.
“In the wake of these issues I needed to understand what was at the back of his mind when he was signing this document. The response was… I was simply sorting out a crisis. I said by transferring it three years down the line and allowing people to die was that the solution? It sounded simple for him. I am still annoyed to this day!” Serem declared.
MPs now say the CBA is not legally binding because it was signed by an individual who did not have powers to represent the government.
The agreement was also meant to create 400 new residency positions, establish overtime pay, create a grievance procedure for equipment shortages, and have 1,200 doctors hired annually for four years to address the severe nationwide shortage.
Currently, starting doctors earn Sh1.5 million annually, translating to Sh121,910 monthly. Under the new agreement, they would earn a minimum of Sh3.8 million annually (Sh325,730 monthly). Mid-level doctors would see their annual salary go from Sh1.6 million to Sh4 million per year.