Kenyan doctors will remain the highest paid in East Africa, after signing a return-to-work formula that will see them get an additional $560 to $700 a month in the form of a risk allowance backdated to January this year.
The agreement that brought to an end the 100-day strike which had crippled health services in public hospitals binds the central and county governments to increase the allowances. It also outlines a promotion plan and protects doctors who went on strike from retribution.
The salaries could rise further if the 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) the doctors have been pushing is signed in 60 days as stipulated in the return-to-work formula. This would put them at par with doctors in countries like South Africa and Namibia, who take home $3,402 and $3,120 per month respectively.
Doctors are demanding a 300 per cent increment in their salary. If implemented, the lowest paid doctor would earn a monthly salary of between $3,119 and $3,187 up from between $1,225 and $1,435 while the highest paid doctor will earn a monthly salary of between $3,141 and $5,161.
It is expected that the minimum annual pay for a doctor in Kenya will be $37,700 while the mid-level doctors will earn an annual salary of between $15,700 and $40,000.
Doctors in Uganda are paid a gross of between $232 and $631; in Rwanda, doctors earn between $474 and $1,702. In Tanzania, health workers were put on the Tanzania Government Health Scale, after years of protesting at being lumped with other government workers under the Tanzania Government Scale.
General practitioners earn about Tsh1.4 million ($626) and specialists Tsh1.8 million ($805).
The Kenyan CBA covers salaries, welfare programmes and improved health facilities.
“We are grateful that this dark page in the history of our country has come to an end,” Health Minister Cleopa Mailu said at the signing of the deal.
“The strike may be over but the industrial dispute is not yet,” Dr Ouma Oluga, head of the union of medical workers (KPMDU), said at the signing.
Cost of implementing
However, Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich earlier told the press that if implemented the pay deal would cost $126 million annually — a bill that the government cannot afford. He said that the pay deal was rushed and agreed without adequate consultation.
Kenya Medical Association national secretary Lukoye Atwoli said that although the doctors’ union and the government had agreed on a number of issues in the CBA, and were waiting for it to be signed, the agreement is not just about the pay increment.
“There are other issues like improvement of the working conditions for the doctors, job structures and criteria for promotions and under-staffing in state hospitals,” said Dr Lukoye.
Previous negotiations between the the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union and the government had hit a deadlock with the latter threatening to sack the striking doctors and to hire foreign doctors. The doctors through their doctor’s union had remained defiant not to return to work until their concerns are addressed as greed in the CBA.
At a meeting with county governors on March 8, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the striking doctors to return to work and warned that any doctor who failed to do so would be dismissed.
Already Kenyatta National Hospital had sacked 12 doctors participating in the strike . Some county governments are said to have also started the process of dismissing the doctors.
To avoid any further intimidation and sacking the return-to-work formula states that there shall be no victimisation whatsoever by or of any party and the employers....
“All salaries withheld pursuant to this industrial action be paid in full upon execution of this agreement but not later than March 31,” says the document adding that the parties enter into consent to forthwith withdraw all Court Cases emanating from the strike.
It also states that any pending promotions be effected in accordance with the Revised Scheme of Services for Medical Officers, Dental Officers and Pharmacists and within the Human Resource guidelines within a period of six months from the date of signing the document.