A series of talks are planned this week to try breaking the deadlock on doctors’ pay dispute. Unlike previous talks, this week’s negotiations will be mediated by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu). KNCHR Vice Chair George Morara said the commission met relevant authorities at the weekend to lay down the ‘specific parameters’ that will guide the discussions. This included the list of issues that are the cause of discontent within the parties. Morara said rules of engagement have been developed and that the warring parties have to agree with and sign before the actual discussions start. “If they cannot sign, then the mediation process cannot kick off. As a commission, we do not want to get involved in a process that will end up not bearing any fruits,” said Morara. ALSO READ: Opposition senators roll out road map to solve doctors’ crisis At some point, Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie was a ‘mediator’ but fell out with doctors. The doctors, who have been on strike for 64 days, have not raised any objection to renewed negotiations as ordered by the court. The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has expressed hope and pledged its full commitment. “We hope the discussions will be fruitful as we are ready to fully corporate,” said KMPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga. “We will fully submit but the talks have to be based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA),” said Dr Oluga. Industrial Court Judge Justice Hellen Wasilwa last week suspended one-month jail sentence for union officials for the third time by a further seven days. In her ruling, Justice Wasilwa gave the Cotu and KNCHR seven days from last Friday to resolve the strike.
She insisted that the one-month sentence will come into effect on February 13 if a solution will not have been reached by then. “We will have to compare CBAs of other organisations of similar nature to see how they were drafted and discuss that with the doctors,” said Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. Meanwhile, clinical officers have issued fresh strike threats following the lack of progress in solving their grievances by the government after they suspended their strike about a week ago to allow for negotiations. The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers officials yesterday told journalists that they are concerned with the slow progress in finding a solution to their problems and will now be forced to go the streets. They noted with only five days remaining before the suspension of their strike ends, none of the stakeholders including the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) was showing any commitment to resolve the matter. Erick Odieki, the national secretary of the union, said that the workers will be forced to down their tools on Friday should the Government fail to resolve the dispute. “We have given them ample time but all we are seeing is a lack of commitment. We are not happy with how SRC is handling the matter casually,” said Ondieki. He accused the government of ignoring the plight of the clinical workers in the country even though the country is already facing a health crisis with the ongoing doctors’ strike. On January 19, a task force drawn from the national government, counties and clinical officers’ union was formed and given 14 days to come up with proposals designed to address the grievances of the clinicians.