Kenya’s striking doctors defy order to resume work

Union officials say they will wait for the conclusion of court-supervised resolution of the three month-long dispute.

Kenyan doctors and healthcare workers protest
The strike has crippled healthcare for more than three months [File: EPA]

Kenya’s public sector doctors, who have been on strike for more than three months, have said they will defy a government order to resume work and will wait for the conclusion of a court-supervised resolution of the dispute.

The medical staff downed their tools in December demanding better pay and working conditions, putting pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government ahead of an election in August.

“While all doctors have been ready to resume duty, doing so under threats, intimidation and show of disrespect is tantamount to career suicide,” the doctor’s union, KMPDU, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

READ MORE: In Kenya, doctors’ strike leaves a nation ailing

KMPDU, which has about 5,000 members, wants authorities to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give them a 150 to 180 percent pay rise.

Kenya doctors’ strike continues as seven union leaders jailed

That agreement also called for a review of working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.

The lengthy standoff between the doctors and the government has seen some union officials serve short jail terms after being found guilty of contempt of court in relation to the strike.

Months of negotiations between the two sides have not borne fruit, however, and on Tuesday the government said it had terminated those talks after accusing the union of inflexibility in negotiations and rejecting a 50 percent pay rise offer.

Doctors were also ordered to resume work.

A furious Kenyatta on Tuesday lambasted the doctors, accusing them of “blackmail”.

“We will not succumb to threats and intimidation. Do these doctors think we are that stupid? We have offered you better salaries than those in private hospitals!” he said at a joint press conference with the Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya.

A Kenyan court which declared the strike illegal appointed church leaders to mediate after several other mediators failed. However, even they failed to make headway after the union on Tuesday rejected a 50 percent salary increase and improved risk allowance.

The previous offer had been 40 percent.

In a series of tweets, KMPDU on Wednesday said its members would only return to duty after signing an agreement with the government “as was guided by the court of appeal under the mediation of religious leaders”.

The court of appeal ordered the parties to appear in court on Monday to report on the progress of the talks.   

University lecturers also went on strike in January, a double blow to Kenyatta’s government just five months before general elections.

Source: News Agencies