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Kenya doctors reject offer as strike hits second month

AFP
6 January 2017 | Kenya
Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) doctors tend to an injured man at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi on December 10, 2016, after being deployed during a five-day strike.  By JOHN MUCHUCHA (AFP/File)
Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) doctors tend to an injured man at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi on December 10, 2016, after being deployed during a five-day strike. By JOHN MUCHUCHA (AFP/File)

Nairobi (AFP) - Kenyan doctors on Friday rejected the government's offer of a 40 percent pay rise in the latest bid to end a month-long strike that has crippled public hospitals across the country.

Thousands of doctors in the country downed tools on December 5 to demand a 300 percent pay rise that they say was agreed in a 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and several rounds of negotiations have failed as the medics dig their heels in.

Nurses are also striking, although some returned to work in mid-December after reaching a separate deal with authorities.

Union officials on Wednesday met with President Uhuru Kenyatta who offered to raise minimum salaries from 140,244 shillings (1270 euros, $1350) a month to 196,989 shillings.

"The union officials today presented that offer to the doctors for deliberations and they humbly rejected it," the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) wrote on its Twitter account.

The union said the offer failed to take into account other agreements mentioned in the CBA, from the need to better equip hospitals to funding research and addressing the security of doctors at work.

Thousands of doctors in Kenya downed tools on December 5 to demand a 300 percent pay rise that they say was agreed in a 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA)

"The issue of discussion is not increase in salaries or allowances for that matter, it is implementation of the CBA," said cardiologist and union member Elijah Ogolla.

KMPDU secretary general Ouma Oluga said that while the strike was still on, doctors were open to further negotiations.

Another meeting between the government and the union officials was due to take place later Friday.

The strike has been devastating for sick Kenyans whose only other option is private healthcare, which is out of reach for most.

Poor salaries and working conditions have led to an exodus of Kenyan doctors to other African countries and abroad, that prompted the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) to warn of "catastrophe" in the health sector in 2014.

The strike has received wide support from the media and citizens on social networks.

Editorials have called for government to pay doctors a decent wage and end the damaging strike, while Kenyans on Twitter point to endless corruption scandals while the doctors struggle for wage increases.

The latest move to outrage the union was a decision by lawmakers just before Christmas to award themselves each 10 million shillings as an exit package ahead of 2017 elections.

"When the government loots it has no limits but when doctors ask for fair pay the president says he has limits," the union tweeted earlier this week alongside an image of the newspaper headline announcing the bonus.

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