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KMPDU defends return-to-work deal amid grumbling it abandoned interns

 President William Ruto hosted KMPDU officials for a meeting at State House Nairobi on May 11, 2024. [PCS]

Days after signing a deal with the government to end the long-drawn doctors' strike, officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) have denied claims that they abandoned the interests of medical interns.

The deal ended the 56-day industrial action by doctors that crippled the nation’s public health sector, at a time when the medics from other cadres were adjuvating the situation.

The return-to-work formula agreement signed on Wednesday addressed most of the union’s demands around increased pay and working conditions for doctors. However, the issue of salaries and postings for medical interns, which is still before a court in Eldoret is still unresolved, with some of the interns feeling left out.

This has prompted grumbling from some quarters, who accuse the union of throwing the intern doctors ‘under the bus’ to secure gains for its fully qualified members. 

On social media platforms like X, interns expressed their anger and frustrations that their demands for improved pay and posting were not definitively addressed in the agreement between KMPDU and the government. “The internship issue is what took us to the streets. We have succeeded in failing to address the primary issue,” wrote Dr Austin Omondi, a medical intern, on X.

“Leaving it in the hands of the court is a gamble. The medical interns will be left with a sour taste in their mouths.”

Another intern lamented that after the strike was launched over the failure to properly compensate and deploy interns, they have now been left “with their (unprintable) in their hands” while the union walks away with “goodies” for fully qualified medical officers and registrars.

These concerns arise because while the return-to-work formula settled most outstanding disputes stemming from the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), it deferred the contentious matter of interns' remuneration and job postings to further negotiations over the next 60 days.

Doctors had demanded interns be paid Sh206,000 per month under a 40-hour work week in line with overtime provisions in the 2017 CBA. But the government wanted interns hired on lower salary terms as per the recommendations of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).

In an interview with The Sunday Standard, KMPDU Secretary-General Davji Atellah, denied those claims, saying the union remains committed to resolving the interns’ situation through ongoing negotiations with the government over the next one to two weeks.

“There’s no bus to throw people under, in the first place,” Atellah stated, adding, “We just need to have things resolved. As a union, we put the internship issue in our CBA, and therefore, it is our organisational obligation to implement it.”

He also said the government now agrees interns must be paid appropriately as qualified doctors.

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