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Young lawyers in court to stop medics salary talks

By Paul Ogemba | Published Wed, March 1st 2017 at 00:00, Updated February 28th 2017 at 21:39 GMT +3
Doctors at Uhuru park as they waited for their colleagues to be released, their union’ officials had been detained on charges of contempt of court. PHOTO: FILE

Mediation talks to end the doctors' strike could be derailed by a petition to stop the process.

The Law Students Society of Kenya (LSSK) argued that the mediation between the medics and the government would disadvantage them against their peers in medical school, who would get better remuneration.

"Intern lawyers get a paltry Sh25,000 while intern doctors get Sh104,000, which is likely to increase to Sh326,000 when the mediation talks are concluded. The result will disadvantage young lawyers who undergo the same six years of training as doctors," said lawyer Edwin Saluny for the students.

The law students are seeking orders suspending the ongoing negotiations between the Kenya Medical Practitioners, the Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), and the government until the petition is heard and determined.

They also want the court to stop any implementation of the 2013 collective bargaining agreement between the doctors and the government, arguing that it will cause great prejudice not only to young lawyers but also other civil servants who earn lower salaries than doctors.

"The CBA itself is discriminatory on legal practitioners, engineers, accountants, and other professionals, who should be treated equally to their counterparts in the medical profession. Implementing it as it is will lead to infringement of the petitioners' fundamental rights and freedoms," said Mr Saluny.

According to the young lawyers, the mediation talks to resolve the doctors' strike are at an advanced stage and could end any time, leading to the implementation of the disputed 2013 CBA before their case is heard.

The mediators from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) were to file their report in the Court of Appeal on Thursday last week but requested for one more week to finalise issues that had not been agreed on by the parties.

The team, led by LSK's John Ohaga and KNCHR's Kagwiria Mbogori, are scheduled to present their progress report before Appellate judges Hannah Okwengu, Fatuma Sichale, and Sankale ole Kantai on Thursday.

LSSK, however, argued that the mediators should not be allowed to present any report or agreement signed by the doctors and the government.

According to the association, the negotiations do not attempt to standardise the salary scales in the public service, especially for interns across various professions since it is aimed to up-scale doctor's stipends to the disadvantage of other professionals.

"Medical interns are equipped with knowledge and skills, which are as rigorously acquired as those possessed by legal pupils and engineering interns. They cannot be treated preferentially against their counterparts who are in similar circumstances," said Saluny.

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