By Justus Nyang’aya
The ongoing doctor’s strike which has entered its second month brings to mind the mythical Kusadikika Kingdom which was defined by excessive greed, lust and abuse of power. The subjects of Kusadikika were not expected to question their rulers. Everything belonged to the king- rivers, stones, lands, fishes, animals – yet every second he cried, “Thirst, hunger, thirst, hunger” nonstop. Despite this, the citizens in Kusadikika were in fact expected to believe what their rulers say, despite therulers’ unbounded greed.
On Monday, the leaders of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) were sent to jail by Judge HellenWasilwa of the Employment and Labour Relations Court. Judge Wasilwa, who had put off the sentencing three times to allow for negotiations between the union and the government sentenced the top leadership of KMPDU to one month in jail for contempt of court after they declined to call off a strike which the court had declared illegal.
While the Judge was quick to send doctors union leaders who rejected the court orders to call off the strike, Interior Principal Secretary, KaranjaKibicho, who was sentenced to three months in jail for the same offence is carrying out his duties on Harambee Avenue like nothing happened.
The genesis of the present impasse is the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the doctors union and the national government signed in June 2013.
Former Health Permanent Secretary, Mark Bor, signed on behalf of the government.
Admittedly, there were clauses that required input from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), the fact remains that the government signed it nonetheless.
Under the 2010 Constitution, a significant portion of health was been devolved to the county governments. However, the county governmentS were not a signatory to the CBA. Further, the Ministry of Health did not register the CBA as required by the Labour Relations Act.
Amidst the deteriorating health care in the country, the Council of Governors (CoG) nor the Ministry of Health has offered leadership.
Frustrated by the lack of progress, the doctors union went to court to seek direction in implementation of the CBA. The court ruled that the government, after consultation with all the parties to the suit, submit to court a CBA for registration as required by law within 90 days. Attempts by the union to reach out to the parties to start the negotiations collapsed forcing the union to issue a 21 day strike notice(on November 12, 2016)after waiting for 45 days. Two days after the strike began on December 5, the government went to court to have the strike declared illegal and therefore unprotected.
Since Jubilee administration came into power, multiple high-level corruption cases have been reported. President Kenyatta admitted that his office is the den of corruption. According to the media report, almost Ksh2 billion was stolen at the National Youth Service (NYS), then under the ministry of Devolution and Planning.
Just before the doctor’s went on strike, Ksh5 Billion was reported lost from the Ministry through fraudulent inflated tender. Some of the people allegedly involved in the scandal were President’s close relatives. However, government officials have gone extra length to deny.
Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), one of Jubilee administration’s flagship project, has been riddled with corruption claims; the government has yet to fully explain why the project is costing Ksh600 billion when similar or better SGR projects in neighbouring countries are costing much less.
The County Government has equally been riddled with corruption. The Governors’ appetite for public money is simply unquenchable as evidenced by the Auditor General’s reports. Give an example.
With all the waste around, how can the government complain there is no money to fully implement the financial aspect of the CBA?
Despite overwhelming evidence of corruption and incompetence, the President has not relieved the Cabinet Secretary for health and his Principal Secretary of their duty.
The doctor’s union leadership has demonstrated leadership by staying the cause, even at the expense of spending nights in jail. Their resolve has brought a spotlight to the problems of public health in Kenya.
CBA, more than just pay
Some have portrayed the doctors as greedy for demanding a fair pay as agreed in the CBA. However, the CBA is more than pay. The CBA is about Wanjiku, Halima, Nduku, Atieno, Nyaboke and all weary Kenyans who have been forced to fundraise to travel to India for medical care because they simply can’t obtain it locally at reasonable cost in the public health facilities.
If the government can tame the runaway corruption, and that money is instead invested in the public health, the government will fulfil the CBA, and doctors will not have to go on strike.
Mr. Nyang’aya is Amnesty International Kenya Country Director. You can reach him on email@example.com