Doctors' strike talks hit a dead end as extended deadline lapses today

No deal has been brokered. The government is not responding to pleas to backdate pay to June 2013, but want the new pay to start July 2017.

 

The failed talks had been postponed since Friday 23rd last week after a Court of Appeal extended time for the talks  by another seven days from last week.

The mediators last month said in a statement that the serial failures by the two sides would prompt them to instead draw up “an appropriate report” for the Court of Appeal in response to the earlier task, if the talks would collapse beyond February 28th (yesterday).

It is therefore expected that the negotiating team – led by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) – would eventually submit its report any time from today.

Doctors have demanded Sh12 billion to effectively settle their demands, in addition to servicing their work place demands as documented in their “illegal” 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to end the strike. The Government has so far offered only Sh4 billion.

40 per cent offer

Earlier in January, and for the first time to speak about the doctors-government impasse, President Uhuru Kenyatta offered doctors a 40 per cent pay rise deal that would have seen the minimum gross salary for doctors move from the current Sh140,000 to Sh196, 989.

This meant, Treasury CS Henry Rotich said, that the government would be spending an additional Sh4 billion annually – which would be shared among the 5,000 doctors.

Speaking last week before the joint house committee on social welfare and Health, Rotich said in his explanation that the 40 per cent pay rise would put doctors' remuneration in line with the labour market, adding that the deal could be easily implemented.  On his part, Health Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu maintained the Government offer was still open.

"What the Government has offered has not changed. Let the doctors tell us what they have ceded since last week," Mailu told journalists in Nairobi.

Currently, the government is choking with satisfying the Wilson Session lot (teachers) after decades of industrial actions. The teachers are now a happy lot after the government brokered a deal to award teachers a pay rise that would cost taxpayers Sh50 billion starting July. The deal is yet to be fully implemented.

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Gainers and losers

The running battle between the government and doctors has plunged the country into a medical crisis as the death toll out of failure to receive specialised medical attention takes lead.

In Mombasa on Tuesday, a two-week-old baby girl died after developing breathing difficulties as there were no doctors to attend to the infant who was in the Intensive Care Unit at the Coast General Hospital.

A poll recently conducted by a pollster team Ipsos showed that over 65 per of Kenyans wanted doctors to resume work even as the talks continue, through their representatives.

Meanwhile, the effective date for the bargaining agreement remains contentious, as the government is worried of backdating pay from as far as June 2013 when the CBA was entered. It is instead holding that the implementation date be July this year, a date doctors have since refused to accept.

The sick Kenyans would now look up to the report yet to be tabled by the LSK and KNCHR even as the hope to broker the deal remains slim.

Deadline

Last week, judges Fatuma Sichale, Hannah Okwengu and Kantai ole Sankale of the Court of Appeal in an updated ruling, granted for seven more days on February 23 to the mediation team to finalise on the negotiations. The seven days given comes to an end today (March 1).

The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ union (KMPDU) lawyer George Abura, had requested for seven more days but the Council of governors opposed it saying two days would be suitable to resolve the matter.

There has been no constructive meeting to end the strike. The mediating team had sad that it will just prepare a report to get out of the circus.

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