Kenya:Health CS, PS rivalry to blame for doctors strike, says Atwoli

Published by Daily Nation
On 13 February 2017 saa 12:13
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Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli wants President Uhuru Kenyatta to reign on Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri to end the ongoing doctors’ strike.

On Sunday, Mr Atwoli admitted that had been unable to end the doctors’ strike, signalling a continuation of the protracted industrial action that is in its third month.

He blamed the prolonged industrial action on antagonism between the two high-ranking government officials.

He said: "During the talks, we discovered that there is infighting at the Ministry of Health that involves the Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and the Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri. This affected our negotiations with the doctors’ union."

He blamed Dr Muraguri whom he said was working with a section of the union officials to frustrate talks towards ending the strike.

"Dr Muraguri is not committed to ending the strike but instead seems determined to use the strike to settle an apparent score with Dr Mailu," he said.

Deliver results

"I appeal to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and separate the two high-ranking ministry officials for the strike to come to an end," added Atwoli who spoke at Mukuyuni Catholic Church in Kaiti Constituency, Makueni County where he attended Sunday service and presided over a funds drive.

The seasoned trade unionist waded into the doctors’ strike a week ago and promised to deliver results in a weeks time.

The court allowed him and a team of Kenya National Human Rights Commission to help resolve the impasse between the State and officials of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU).

The ad hoc team that had volunteered to intervene between the State and the doctors, said that his team had done all it could but had been defeated to persuade the doctors to return to work.

"Through our intervention, the government had offered to increase the basic pay and the allowances for doctors significantly," said Mr Atwoli.

After the proposed pay hike, he said, the least paid doctor would take home Sh 196, 244 from the current Sh 140, 244 per month.

The highest paid doctor would have earned Sh588,980 up from Sh518, 580 that they had been drawing per month, he said.

The greatest achievement that the Atwoli’s team celebrated, however, was a Sh10,000 increase in risk allowance available to all doctors.

Hardline stance

Doctors would now take home Sh20,000 a month regardless of whether they are on emergency call. However, KPMDU officials refused to accept the proposed offer in total, Mr Atwoli added.

He said: "I told the union officials to accept the offer first as we continue with the talks as has been the tradition in trade dispute resolution but they would hear none of this."

He blamed infighting at the Ministry of Health for the hardline stance by the KMPDU officials.

At the same time, Mr Atwoli said that talks to end the strike had also been hampered by senior doctors and those running private clinics whom he said were misguiding young striking doctors to make unrealistic demands.

He hit out at the Senate Health Committee that has ruled that the doctors’ strike is invalid since the contested 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the government and the doctors is illegal.

"I disagree with senators because in making such a ruling, the senators must have wanted to incite the doctors against the State," he said.

Atwoli, who was accompanied by National Social Security Fund board Chairman Gideon Ndambuki and former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile, appealed to striking doctors to accept the offer proposed by the government as talks to end the impasse continue.

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Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli speaks at the Nairobi Industrial court on February 3, 2017. He has blamed the failure to end the ongoing doctors strike on supremacy wars between Health CS Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri.

Source:Daily Nation