NAIROBI, KENYA: CORD leader Raila Odinga said the coalition has instructed its lawyers to take up doctors’ case against the government after Court on Monday jailed union officials for refusal to call off strike.
Through Raila Odinga, Cord blamed government for failure to resolve the strike which has affected many patients across the country.
“Rather than resolve the crisis in the health sector, the jailing of union officials deepens it and sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It marks out the government as a dishonest and unreliable employer whose word, even in writing count for nothing,” said Raila.
“That has grim implications for resolving future conflicts between the government, employees and other entities, including the strike by university lecturers which is equally taking a bad turn as the government fumbles,” he noted.
He pointed out that the court had created opportunities for the government to resolve the issues around the CBA it signed with doctors.
But the government spurned all those opportunities and instead took advantage of the suspended sentence to blackmail the doctors. “The action is meant to arm twist the doctors to accept what they don’t agree with when in
fact, the government is the problem.”
Cord leader Raila Odinga
Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike since December 5 over pay and conditions.
A series of corruption scandals, including an investigation into millions of dollars allegedly missing from the Health Ministry, has bolstered support for the doctors, even though Kenyan media has reported that patients have died during the strike.
A court ruled that the strike was illegal in December. In January, Justice Hellen Wasilwa sentenced leaders to jail for ignoring her earlier ruling, but suspended the sentence to allow negotiations. On Monday, she ordered union officials arrested.
"This court decides to resume its order sentencing the applicants to a one-month jail term," she said.
The union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150-180 percent pay rise on basic salaries; review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.
The government has said it can only afford a 40 percent pay rise.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists' Union had warned that doctors in private hospitals might also strike if union officials were jailed.
Union leaders and Ministry of Health officials were not available for comment.