Kenya Jails Striking Doctors' Union Officials

Miranda GreerFeb 15, 2017

The current action comes despite a threat by the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists' Association, that doctors in the private hospitals might also strike if union leaders were jailed.

They said this will be in protest against the imprisonment of doctors' union officials following the latter's incarceration for contempt of court.

The doctors said they were disappointed that "what started off as a labour dispute had morphed into a criminal charge" where "leaders have been taken hostage to force a settlement".

The deal requires the government to give doctors a 300 per cent pay rise, review their working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.

A Kenyan court has jailed seven union officials for a month for failing to call off a strike by the country's doctors that has crippled public hospitals for 10 weeks.

"This court decides to resume its order sentencing the applicants to a one month jail term", Justice Hellen Wasilwa said.

The collective Bargaining agreement remains the formal process for all professionals in Kenya to bargain for their salaries, allowances and working conditions. Now doctors earn an average basic salary of $400 to $850 per month compared to a Kenya legislator who earns almost $14,000 a month.

"There will be no negotiations as long as the union officials are in jail ..."

"Instead of leading in dialogue to end the doctors' strike, the Principal Secretary is in Nyeri wooing people to register as voters", said Atwoli.

The doctors' union rejected both offers and urged the government to pay the full salary increases promised three years ago.

"The machines break down frequently, the doctors are overwhelmed".

A series of corruption scandals, including an investigation into millions of dollars allegedly missing from the Health Ministry, has bolstered support for the doctors, even though Kenyan media has reported that patients have died during the strike. Government however refused to honor the agreement, saying it was signed by a previous regime.

The government has already linked several deaths by those too poor to pay for health care to the strike.

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