Kenyan doctors have vowed to continue their strike preferring to go to jail rather than hold talks with the government within 14 days as directed by court.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court gave the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials two weeks to resolve the ongoing doctors’ strike or go to jail for one month for contempt of court.
But the doctors later reiterated their stand that they will only return to work once the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) reached in 2013 is implemented.
KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga said they cannot negotiate under coercion and will serve their jail terms beginning Jan 26.
“We cannot negotiate with a noose on our necks,” he told striking doctors and students on Thursday evening, noting that threats to sack or jail them will not force them to call off the ongoing strike.
“We pray that the government will take advantage of the window provided by the court to engage meaningful on implementation of the CBA,” Oluga added.
He said the Kenyans doctors are resolute, united in resolve to better healthcare system in the country but added that nothing will derail “this train of universal healthcare.”
Oluga vowed that on Jan. 26 if the government will not have implemented the collective bargaining agreement, hospitals will still be closed.
While delivering her ruling on Thursday, Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge, Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa observed that the union’s officials had disobeyed the court and stated that court orders must be obeyed no matter how “unpalatable” they seem.
“The sentence will fall down on your head within two weeks if the strike is still on after two weeks,” she ruled.
The Judge at the same time revealed that the CBA that the Union has been clamoring for was invalid as it has not yet been registered by the court.
She said that the court had to protect and uphold the rule of law and that the doctors would have to be held to account for ignoring the court’s direction.
“Let Kenyans know that the CBA that you are talking about does not exist. A CBA must be registered by the Court for it to be recognized and what you are talking about has not been registered. Tell your members that there is no CBA.”
The union officials, who were led by the National Chairman Dr. Samuel Oroko and Oluga, had earlier pleaded their case urging the Judge to give them a lenient sentence.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta met with union leaders in Mombasa and offered them a 40 percent pay rise.
This would have seen the least paid doctor earn a monthly gross salary of 1,950 U.S. dollars up from the current 1,400 dollars. The offer would cost the government 50 million dollars every year.
The doctors however rejected the offer insisting on a 300 percent pay hike. Oroko said the government is not willing to honor their demands because there are cartels who want to maximize from the private sector.
“We want to make it clear. The CBA must be registered and implemented in full. We are not going back to work until that CBA is implemented,” Oroko said.
The striking doctors said they hope this will be the last strike that “is why we oppose cosmetic solutions to deep-rooted crisis.”
“We humbly put forward the argument that the 2013 CBA offers the best platform for cordial working relationship between doctors and their employer. We are looking forward to a time where disputes especially in healthcare will be sorted urgently and amicably before it becomes a crisis,” he added.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK