A Kenyan court has handed down a one-month suspended jail term to seven union officials over a doctors’ strike which has crippled public hospitals for the last 40 days.
However Judge Hellen Wasilwa said that if the doctors did not call off the strike within two weeks, the officials would “be arrested and taken to jail.
“The duty of physicians is to preserve and protect life. There are a lot of people who die here and I do not think that a collective-bargaining agreement is more important than the lives of many Kenyans,” she said.
The medics last week rejected a 40% pay rise offer from the government, demanding the full implementation of a 2013 collective bargaining agreement.
“We cannot negotiate with a noose around our necks,” said union secretary general Ouma Oluga, who was one of those sentenced.
“In the month of March, we will give the best medical services to the prisons in this country,” he added.
“If the strike continues, you all will be taken to cells”
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) brushed off the latest attempt by authorities to force them back to work, insisting the prospect of jail did not deter them.
Meanwhile, Health Cabinet Secretary, Dr Cleopa Mailu, on Friday announced that the government has terminated talks with the striking doctors on pay demands to allow the court process to take its course.
Speaking to the press at Afya House, Mailu said the government will now wait for the doctors to obey court orders which directed the doctor’s union to end their strike and negotiate with the government on their pay hike demands.
Doctors options narrowed as officials are sentenced to jail: https://t.co/zDbcXS5rHI Neo colonialism ìn details. Back to Nyayo house.
— Welstec Kenya (@Welstec) January 12, 2017
While affirming the government’s commitment to negotiate with the medics, Mailu insisted that the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2013 did not comply with the Salary and Remunerations Commission (SRC) guidelines nor devolution saying that health was a devolved function.