Striking doctors demands are unfair, unaffordable, says SRC

Public Service CS Moses Kuria with SRC chairperson Lyn Mengich during a media breakfast briefing ahead of the Wage Bill Conference slated for April 16 to 17 at Bomas of Kenya. [James Wanzala, Standard]

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has rebuked striking doctors demanding that the government honours the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2017.

The doctors, working in public hospitals, have been on strike since mid-March, causing untold suffering to poor Kenyans who rely on public hospitals.

The Commission stated that the doctors' demands are unfair, unaffordable, unsustainable, and inequitable.

SRC advises the national and county governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers.

“Currently, state corporations, most of them, are between 60 and 75th percentile. The other sectors operating within that category are commissions and independent offices because their salary structure is similar to state corporations,” said Lyn Mengich, chairperson of SRC.

She added: “The doctors are between 75th and 100 percentile; in fact, the majority are at the 100 percentile. In other words, they are at the top of the market, with a few cadres at the 75th percentile. Civil servants are at around the 32nd percentile, which is below the 40th percentile.”

Ms Mengich was speaking yesterday at a media briefing in Nairobi ahead of the third Wage Bill Conference scheduled for April 16 to 17 at Bomas of Kenya.

"Where we are today is a result of the CBA signed in 2017 after a strike, and the reality is that the government cannot afford to honour it. It’s important that we do not find ourselves in the same situation."

“You must ask yourselves if the employer cannot afford the 2017 CBA, how then will it afford what you are asking for,” she said.

She added: “And we must ask ourselves about equity and fairness. Why would part of the public officers be below the 40th percentile while others are at the 100th percentile and those that are at 100 are asking for more?”

Mengich said those are the issues Kenyans must think through so that we do not end up with another return-to-work formula that is not sustainable and speaks to unfairness across the public sector.

She said: “It must speak to fiscal affordability, sustainability, equity, and fairness so that we have a sustainable strategy going forward.”

President William Ruto, while speaking recently, urged striking health workers to return to work, saying the government has no money to pay them.

Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Performance, and Delivery Management Moses Kuria said he will soon centralise CBA negotiations so that no professional bodies deal with their employers as it is today.

“We have engineers, they are professionals who are A students, same as doctors and actuarial scientists; we really can’t have rules for one profession for people who went through high school and came out with the same grade but went in different directions, and then we treat them differently,” said Kuria.

He added: “That is why I am having this conversation to stop all CBAs driven by profession. Now, if we have doctors continue bargaining for their own CBAs, then actuarists, engineers, lecturers, it will be chaotic. I will tell fellow cabinet secretaries so that in my docket I stop all these profession-focused CBAs so that we centralize CBA negotiations and thus have equity and consistency."

Regarding the payment of medical interns, he stated that 58,000 applied for the 8,600 advertised positions, and it is not feasible to pay each of them Sh45,000.

According to the SRC, intern doctors should receive salaries ranging from Sh47,000 to Sh70,000.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore has appealed to the medical practitioners to give dialogue a chance so as to end the current stalemate.

In a statement, Bore admitted that current industrial action in the health sector is serious owing to the services that doctors offer to Kenyans on a daily basis.