Apology to Kenyans as doctors' strike ends with return-to-work formula

Chairman of the Council of Governors Peter Munya (from left) Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) Chairman Samuel Oroko,Health CS Cleophas Mailu and KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga after signing the 'Return to work formula ' agreement with the doctors at the Governors offices in Nairobi. PHOTO/ELVIS OGINA (NAIROBI) MARCH 14TH,2017

After exactly 100 days of a painful nationwide strike, doctors finally agreed to resume duty after reaching an agreement with the Government.

The return-to-work formula was signed by the doctors’ union, Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya, amid apologies to a suffering nation.

 Both parties, the Health ministry and governors on one end and the unionists on the other, were unanimous that such industrial action should never occur again, with Mr Munya terming the situation as painful, especially for many Kenyans, whose only hope for medical care was in government facilities.

"This country should not experience such a painful process again. We should be able to put the bigger interest of the public first," said the Meru Governor, who said that the strike was a big lesson towards implementing devolution as health was a devolved function.

Munya, in reference to the protracted dispute that started on December 5, going through the Labour Court and eventually ending up at the Court of Appeal following the brief imprisonment of the doctors' representatives, said the experience was a painful one that need not be repeated.

Mailu said it was saddening that the strike took long, at the expense of suffering Kenyans.

"We cannot fathom the pain Kenyans experienced during the strike, but we hope that such a situation will never happen again in the history of the country. We know we have grievances, but we must learn how to resolve them," said the CS.

He added: "It will remain as black pages in the record of the country, but we are happy that at the end we have arrived at an amicable solution. We shall restore the services, but we ask Kenyans to forgive us for any shortcomings."

KPMDU Secretary-General Ouma Oluga insisted that the issue that forced doctors to down their tools was not mainly monetary but what he termed as a breakdown of dialogue.

"Issues of human relations in this country are very poor. We shall endeavour to improve dialogue when seeking attention," said the unionist, adding that the health sector needs reform.

Dr Oluga said the government – both national and county – must prevent industrial action by health workers at all costs, saying strikes hurt poor Kenyans.

"We are happy that the union has put an end to the strike. The terms and conditions relating to doctors have been honoured. We hope the country will not experience such a thing again," said Oluga after signing the deal. He said that while the strike has ended, the dispute still remained as the parties had yet to sign a CBA, which is more binding.

"As the strike comes to an end, there is an assurance that everything is okay. Services will continue, but we must go by the direction of the judges who insisted that our agreement be filed in court," said Oluga.

He said doctors will today sign with Kenyatta National and Moi Teaching and Referral hospitals a modified return-to-work agreement.

Oluga said doctors hoped that the salaries for the period they have been on strike would be paid, as they had agreed in the negotiations.

The protracted dispute came to an end after the parties agreed to ensure that a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is signed within 60 days.

Catholic Bishop Alfred Rotich, who spoke on behalf of the religious leaders who have lately been mediating in the talks, said Kenyans needed to embrace a sense of national unity and reject attempts to victimise any party in the industrial dispute.

And as the strike came to an end doctors emerged the winners in increased allowances under the return-to-work formula.

In addition, no doctor will face disciplinary action as a result of participating in the strike while county governments and national health institutions which had sacked or written warning letters to striking doctors agreed to withdraw the punishments.

Under the agreement, all doctors in different job categories will receive increased allowances ranging between 105 and 165 per cent as they wait for the conclusion of negotiations for a new structure for basic salary to be registered in court within 60 days.

All medical doctors, dental specialists, and pharmacists will get a new medical risk allowance of Sh20,000 a month. The new allowances will be effective from January 1, 2017.

In addition, the agreement provides that all doctors be placed in their appropriate job groups and promoted in accordance with the revised scheme of service.

They further agreed that the county governments and KMPDU shall conclude the recognition agreement based on a model prepared by both parties during the mediation process by the Law Society of Kenya, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and religious leaders.

"And as part of the return-to-work agreement, the national and county governments and KPMDU shall conclude and register the collective bargaining agreement within 60 days. The document developed during mediation process shall form the basis of the new CBA," read the agreement.