Kenyan government doctors go on strike, demand honoring of 2013 pay deal

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Doctors working in Kenyan state hospitals went on strike on Monday to demand fulfillment of a 2013 agreement between their union and the government that would raise their pay and improve working conditions, a senior union official said.

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Police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of members of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) who had marched to the health ministry headquarters in the capital, Reuters witnesses said.

The medics, wearing white gowns and surgical caps, then marched on to the Finance Ministry headquarters.

Comprising about 5,000 members, the union says the bargaining agreement was to give them a 300 percent pay rise, review of their working conditions and job structures and criteria for promotions, and address under-staffing of medical professionals in state hospitals.

Samuel Oroko, the union’s national chairman, said they had given the government enough time to honor the deal.

“We must be listened to... We have had lots and lots of diplomacy, and lots and lots of dialogue. Dialogue has to come to an end,” he said to cheers of doctors present at a news conference before the march.

“And the action is that doctors in Kenya will remain in strike until the CBA (agreement) is implemented,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from officials at the Ministry of Health on Monday, but Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said on Sunday the strike would be unfortunate, given an Oct. 6 court ruling that had handed both parties 90 days to negotiate over the collective bargaining agreement.

“We hope reason will prevail. Strikes are called as a last resort. In this case it is unfortunate,” he said.

KMPDU said the strike would affect all public hospitals: those run by the national government and by regional governments - known as counties, and will involve all doctors regardless of their specializations.

additional reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by Aaron Maasho; editing by Ralph Boulton