There was outrage among doctors and medical practitioners serving in the public sector when they found out that their January salaries had been slashed by huge margins without explanation. Salaries of doctors, nurses and other medics were cut down by between Sh12,000 and Sh50,000 depending on category. Unionists representing various cadres of public medical practitioners cried foul, suspecting the cut may have been implemented as a consequence for days when the workers were strike late last year.
However, the central government moved fast to distance itself from the salary deductions, saying no such action had been authorised and whatever it was must have occurred at the county level fromwhere medical workers are now earning their pay. Last evening Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia confirmed there had been an error where doctors and employees in the health sector had their salaries slashed by between Sh12,000 and Sh50,000 in varied categories.
“We are trying to talk to the governors to establish what the problem was, but it is illegal to reduce one’s pay. The law is very clear that you can only increase it and whatever has happened is completely illegal,” Macharia told The People by telephone, raising hope that whatever may have occurred is mere error not deliberate action and would be rectified.
The full extent of the deductions, mainly reported in Nairobi, could not be established but union officials said it was widespread. The Cabinet Secretary disclosed that a meeting had been convened between his ministry, the Council of Governors and National Treasury to sort out the matter as soon as possible. This came as the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, (KMPDU) gave both the county and national governments a two-day notice to reverse the deductions, failure to which they would resort to industrial action.
The unionists said reports of pay cuts were received from Nairobi, Mandera, Bungoma, Mombasa, Nakuru, Wajir, Kajiado, Kisumu and Baringo. The emerging situation was yesterday discussed at a meeting between the union and officials from Treasury, Health ministry, Public Service Commission, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Transition Authority, as well as Council of Governors. No solution had been communication by last night according to union officials.
“They told us the cuts were errors, but we fail to understand how these errors are systematic and across the counties,” said KMPDU chairman Victor Ngani. According to the union, a section of governors have effected significant pay cuts to the doctors’ pay against the law and against assurances by the Council of Governors made last year. “Our members particularly in Mandera and Baringo counties have had their pay severed by as much as 30 percent, but we shall not allow it,” said Ngani, warning that the union was preparing for possible industrial action.
“This is the very reason why we were demanding that the crucial function of paying doctors remains with the central government instead of being transferred to counties,” he said. Ngani said: “A pharmacist who used to get a gross salary of Sh160,000 has now received Sh130,000.” “Other workers for instance in Mandera county have had their risk and hardship allowances scrapped and their extraneous allowances slashed by Sh5,000,” he added.
As a result of the cuts, he said nurses who were earning Sh65,000 had been paid Sh50,000. He said a majority of counties had announced plans to delay February pay by as long as two weeks. He posed: “They are asking the doctors to be tolerant, but how can this be when they have various obligations to cater to?” “We are saddened that the very fears we had raised last year are coming true. This is not only against the County Governments Act which states clearly that no officer shall have their pay altered, but also against the assurance by the Council of Governors last year,” he said.
Last December the doctors went on strike to protest the transfer of their payroll from the national to the county governments. The doctors wanted the national government to continue paying them until a proper legal regime is put in place for a structured devolution of their services. They were also opposed to the manner in which the Transition Authority and the Governors’ Council were handling devolution of health services.
The doctors also wanted a health commission established to handle employment, emolument and other matters related to their welfare. They furtherwanted the establishment of multi disciplinary team, not only facilitate the necessary legal regime, but also ensure that laws enacted are friendly to health workers.