Kenya’s ministry of health said on Sunday that it is committed to negotiations with the doctors’ union that will lead to an amicable solution to the strike.
The ministry said the government has made spirited efforts to engage the doctors’ union initially on a return to work formula and address contentious issues in the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) as directed by the court.
“It is now however apparent that the union is not interested in addressing the issues as pronounced by the court,” the ministry said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
“It is apparent that the doctors’ union has engaged side shows and use of divisionary tactics to frustrate the efforts and intentions by the government to resolve the current impasse.”
Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) is demanding a 300 percent salary increase for its members as agreed in the CBA says the lowest paid doctor to get earn 3,450 dollars while the highest should be earning 9,450 dollars.
However, the government has offered a 500 dollars or 40 percent increase for the lowest paid doctors, which would have raised their salaries to 1,760 dollars but unions rejected it and walked out of talks.
The doctors say the industrial action was occasioned by three-year industrial dispute concerning the disputed CBA signed on June 27, 2013 and effective July 1, 2013.
They accuse the government side of failing to show any good will in the negotiation process but instead threatening them with law suits.
Justice Helen Wasilwa of the Employment and Labour Relations Court on Jan. 12 ordered the KMPDU officials to call off the strike and finalize the salary talks with the government within two weeks.
The judge early last week issued a warrant of arrest of the union officials over failure to appear in court after being summoned. However, the union officials presented themselves before the court for contempt charges.
Justice Wasilwa then directed the KMPDU officials to return to the court on Jan. 26 to be briefed on progress on negotiations between the union and government.
On Sunday, the ministry said the government has redoubled efforts to ensure access to services by members of the public at this time of industrial action by doctors.
These efforts, it said, include fast tracking of Linda Mama programme through which the ministry of health has engaged over 2,000 faith based facilities to provide delivery and emergency services, as well as monitoring of the over 6,000 public dispensaries, health centers, and outpatient departments in public hospitals which are currently offering services.
“As we have pointed out in the past, the 2013 CBA which is the genesis of the current industrial action by doctors is not registered in court. This is a legal requirement that renders it non-implementable in its current form,” the ministry said.
The ministry said the doctors have pressed on with industrial action despite it having been declared illegal by the court as well as rejected proposals by the government to conclude negotiations towards ending the strike and turned down government’s enhanced offer, of 40 percent increment of doctors’ current remuneration.
“As we have pointed out before, medical practitioners/doctors are some of the highly paid workers in the Public Service, earning nearly three times higher than other civil servants in similar grades,” it said. Enditem