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Home / Health & Science

Sabotage, internal wars and rigidity land doctors in jail

By LUKE ANAMI AND GRAHAM KAJILWA | Tue,Feb 14 2017 00:00:00 EAT

 Kenya medical practioners and dentist union officilas being manned by police at a Milimani court before being sent to jail by Justice Wasilwa. 13/7/2017 PHOTO BY GEORGE NJUNGE

Lack of commitment by Ministry of Health officials and a rigid position by the doctor's union sabotaged pay talks that led to the jailing of union officials yesterday.

Accusations of a rift between Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and his Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri in particular have been blamed for stalling the final leg of talks brokered by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli cited a letter written by Dr Mailu and addressed to him and KNCHR chairperson Kagwira Mbogori detailing the nominees to represent the ministry at the talks ordered during the last appearance in the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

In the letter, Mailu appointed a four-member team comprising Dr Muraguri as the team leader, Musyimi FK, (secretary, administration), Izaq Odongo (head of Curative and Rehabilitative Services) and David Njoroge (director, human resources management and development).

However, Mr Atwoli claimed Muraguri did not attend any of the meetings to mediate an end to the crisis.

"The person assigned to lead the negotiations was one Nicholas Muraguri but he technically and cleverly avoided because of the infighting between him and CS Cleopa Mailu," Atwoli claimed.

"What happened after the court had assigned me the responsibility of mediating, together with the human rights organisation, is that we embarked on the exercise immediately with three experts from Cotu, including my deputy," he explained.

"But the problem has not been because we were unable to arbitrate. The problem has been that we noted in the course of negotiations there was infighting within the Ministry of Health," said the Cotu boss.

"And it was not easy for us to make a mark because whatever we tried to achieve, he talked separately to the leadership of the union and they would change their minds immediately," he said alluding to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) whose seven officials were jailed for one month by Justice Hellen Wasilwa for disobeying a court order to call off the strike.

"So this is an internal matter; it is not a question of CBA because according to our enormous industrial relations machinery, you cannot negotiate with the employer under duress," added Atwoli.

However, Mailu yesterday distanced himself from the alleged infighting within the ministry.

While Atwoli alleged that Muraguri never attended any of the meetings despite being assigned, Mailu insisted that could not be the reason for the failed talks.

"Talks are not handled by one person, and his absence from the negotiating table should not have stopped the talks from taking place," said Mailu.

Dr Muraguri did not respond to our inquiries.

The CS said only the Cotu boss could elaborate the allegations of partisan interests.

"There is no need to trivialise this matter as serious as it is," said Mailu. He described as unfortunate the turn of events that led to the doctors' jailing.

But he explained that it should not be said that the doctors were jailed for agitating for their rights. He said the court's decision was not in any way the Government's decision.

"The court did what it had to do. My hope was that we should have found a solution during that grace period," Mailu said.

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