Kenya Doctors Talks flop, They accuse Govt of shying away from negotiations

The ongoing doctors’ strike shows no signs of resolution as talks aimed at ending the impasse between striking medical practitioners and their employers collapsed on Wednesday afternoon.

This marks the second failed attempt within a week for negotiations between the government and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).

The court-mediated discussions, aimed at finding a return-to-work agreement, broke down after the government insisted that doctors must end the strike before talks could continue. Conversely, doctors remained steadfast, stating they would only halt the strike if the government committed to a return-to-work plan.

Deputy Head of Public Service Josphat Nanok stated, “We have discussed extensively the government’s role in addressing the strike. As the strike remains active, it hampers the government’s ability to address the 19 issues raised by the union. Therefore, we’ve paused the meeting and requested the union to suspend the strike by April. Otherwise, both parties will report back to court.”

KMPDU Secretary General Dr. Davji Atellah criticized the government for approaching negotiations insincerely, reiterating the union’s stance that the strike would persist until a return-to-work plan was established and the government committed to addressing the 19 grievances.

Dr. Atellah stated, “During today’s meeting, the government abruptly left, including the Health, Labour, Finance, and Public Service Cabinet Secretaries, along with the Council of Governors Chair. They expressed indifference towards the strike’s duration. As a union, we stand firm until the government resolves our issues, as mandated by Justice Mbaru’s ruling and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).”

Meanwhile, the Council of Governors (CoG) convened an extraordinary meeting to address the healthcare paralysis caused by the strike. They urged striking doctors to adhere to court orders and urged the national government to implement the 2017 CBA to resolve the deadlock.

CoG Chair and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru emphasized, “We urge the union to renegotiate CBAs with the county governments, their employers. We also appeal for restraint from both the government and doctors. Doctors are encouraged to return to work as per court orders, or face disciplinary action from their respective county employers.”

As the strike enters its third week, the Employment and Labour Relations Court, reconvening on April 3, may offer the last opportunity to broker a truce and restore public health services.