Kenyan doctors stare down jail threat

2 minute read

Kenya’s doctors are facing the possibility of jail time following a strike over poor pay and working conditions


As unpleasant as the Medicare freeze may be in Australia, spare a thought for Kenya’s doctors, who are facing the possibility of jail time following a two-month long strike over poor pay and working conditions.

The union representing Kenyan doctors is demanding the fulfilment of a 2013 agreement which it says awarded them a 150 to 80% pay rise on basic salaries, a review of working conditions and promotions criteria, as well as hiring of more staff in state hospitals.

The government says it can only afford a 40% pay rise but would work to meet other conditions.

The failure to resolve the impasse has led to Kenya’s Industrial Court ruling the strike to be illegal and has threatened a month’s imprisonment for union leaders if a resolution cannot be reached.

Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, who leads a team of lawyers for the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, said earlier this month the union had tried it best to engage Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu, but he had shown no goodwill.

Mr Kilonzo said it was wrong for the judge to single out the union officials for punishment when the orders directed that both parties engage in talks.

“It is not fair when doctors are in the streets and their colleagues are on the verge of being jailed while the cabinet secretary is sitting pretty easy in his office waiting for them to be jailed,” Mr Kilonzo said.

The strike, which began on December 5, poses a challenge for the Kenyan government in an election year, as it seeks to prevent other state workers taking action for higher pay.

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