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Doctors skip presser as State confident of a deal

 Head of Public Service Felix Koskei (centre) speaks at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. [Pius Cheruiyot, Standard] 

The government’s announcement that the doctors’ strike could be resolved today seems uncertain after medics skipped a presser Monday. 

Speaking at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Head of Public Service Felix Koskei indicated that all was set and it was now for the Kenya Medical practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union to ratify the final document.

“We have several organs to pass through in order for the strike to be called off, or for the suspension by the court to be affirmed,” said Koskei The presser was attended by officials from various ministries and the Council of Governors.

The doctors’ representatives were however missing at the presser which raised questions as to why one group was conspicuously absent from talks that should have involved both parties.

Sources intimated to The Standard that even as government officials made the announcement, doctors were holed up in a separate meeting. 

Koskei however exuded confidence of a deal being signed today.

“We need to give them (KMPDU) more time to conclude with their membership so that tomorrow (today), once they are ready, we come here...convene here … sit here and sign the return to work formula as agreed Monday,” added Koskei.

Chair of the Council of Governors Anne Waiguru, said talks had been fruitful.

“And as you have heard from the Head of Public Service, all matters that all unions have been asking and have to do with county governments have been agreed to and resolved and initialed,” she said.

“They are going through the process of ratifying the same with their membership. We were expecting them to be done by 2pm, unfortunately the meeting seems to be taking too long and as we have heard, we are expecting to reconvene tomorrow for the final signing and we are looking forward to the strike being called off,” Waiguru added.

Impeding resolution

Sources from government side and health workers representatives told The Standard that no deal had been drafted by last evening even as government officials assured the country that one was afoot.

Earlier, KMPDU and the government had been tightlipped, with sources from the medics’ union providing varying hints on the impeding resolution.

Over the weekend, KMPDU called for a press conference. Rather than report on progress of the talks the union leaders instead sent a message of condolence to the family of the late Ogolla.

A source within the union who spoke on condition of anonymity said Koskei, PS of Medical Services Harry Kimtai, KMPDU General Secretary Davji Atellah, Legal Advisor office of the Head of Public Service, Jasper Mbiuki and KMPDU lawyer Edgar Washika had been combing through proposals that would later crystalise into a Return to Work formula.

Earlier on, the two sides announced that they were closing ranks on sticky issues raised by medics and which had adjuvanted the strike that lasted for forty days. They include posting of interns, employment conditions for doctors and stipends for postgraduate registrars.

“Sunday saw a series of meetings that ended minutes to midnight, with the government and KMPDU agreeing to all but one issue - remuneration for interns - which is a matter before the courts,” said a source.

He also added that according to a meeting chaired by Koskei under the Whole of Nation Approach, which was constituted by the labour courts, the doctors’ union was expected to consult KMPDU’s full council on agreements before signing a return-to-work formula on Monday afternoon.

“Both sides have ceded ground on contentious issues that have seen their hardline stands all through the period”, he added.

Release of basic salary arrears under the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining agreement was key, with payments expected to be made in 5 installments.

Another meeting was later constituted on Monday afternoon at KICC that was also attended by the Council of Governors. Although governors represented counties, they had been singled out by KMPDU as an impediment to reaching an agreement. 

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