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Relief for 47 Mombasa health workers facing contract termination

Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The county government of Mombasa has put on hold its plan to terminate contracts of 47 health workers when they expire on April 2.

The decision by governor Hassan Joho's administration follows negotiations with the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) which sought to have the contracts of the medics, who include 20 doctors, extended instead.

The county and the health workers have been locked up in a legal dispute since the administration moved to court seeking orders to have the medics stop a strike they had started on March 6 to protest delayed payment of their salaries and failure by the government to remit statutory deductions to their unions.

The county government had also planned to recall 70 of 200 doctors who are on study leave in Egypt and Cuba, a decision said to have been rescinded following its talks with officials of the union. 

KMPDU has been making efforts to stop the termination of the medics' contracts as well as recall of those on study leave.

The union also wants the government to recall letters it sent to medics sanctioning disciplinary action over their participation in the strike.

On Friday, a source said the county government had put on hold its plans to punish the medics. It will not also recall those on studies pending the outcome of its ongoing talks with KMPDU, the source said.

Another source from the union said the county government is faced with a shortage of health workers and termination of contracts of the medics would greatly affect service delivery in public hospitals.

KMPDU has been making efforts to stop the termination of the medics' contracts as well as recall of those on study leave. [File, Standard]

"It is true there are problems between the medics and the county government which emanated from the strike. But the county's plan to terminate their contracts was not only because of their participation in the strike. The local government is also facing budget constraints," the source further said.

Local KMPDU branch secretary Nassir Shaban, in a communication to the medics, said the union had a fruitful meeting with health executive Joab Tumbo on the various issues that had been raised, including the possibility of recalling doctors from study leave.

“We managed to convince the government to allow doctors on study leave to continue uninterrupted. Meanwhile, we continue to engage to have the administration and we are hopeful it will cancel all the disciplinary letters it issued to the medics,” read Dr Shaban said in his letter.

“We have agreed to ensure that all the issues affecting doctors are sorted amicably,” Shaban said noting that the union also hopes the issue of annual leave will be sorted out once and for all.  

On Wednesday, the county government told the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Mombasa that it has paid the January and February salaries and five months’ statutory remittances for its health workers.

“Indeed all the respondents have been paid the January and February salaries and statutory deductions remitted,” county attorney Tajbhai Tajbhai told Justice Agnes Kitiku.

On Thursday, Justice Kitiku also extended the interim orders restraining the health workers from continuing with their strike that started on March 6 pending the determination of the suit filed by the county government.

On March 9, just a day after the health workers started their industrial action to protest delayed payment of their salaries and the county's failure to remit their deductions to their unions, Justice Kitiku issued interim orders directing the health workers to call off their strike and resume duty immediately.

In the county government's case, KMPDU, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), Kenya Health Professional Union (KHPU), Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO), Kenya National Union of Pharmaceutical Technology (KNUPT), and Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) were cited as respondents.

The county government had also planned to recall 70 of 200 doctors who are on study leave in Egypt and Cuba. [File, Standard]

KMPDU lawyer Wafula Washike said the health workers had complied with the court's orders but lamented that it was not the first time the county was suing the union's members after which issues raised are never resolved.

The lawyer applied to have the court direct that the county government and the health workers’ union appear before a labour officer and have a report tabled before the court over the recurrent issues that have often led to industrial action, including its failure to remit deductions.

KNUN's lawyer Tyson Kinoti confirmed that nurses had been paid all their pending salaries, for January and February, and all the five months’ statutory deductions remitted.

“The report from Mombasa is that they have been paid for the January and February salaries as well as the deductions,” said Kinoti.

He however said they are concerned over an alleged plan to have members remit the deductions to their unions by themselves.