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Doctors union officials evade jail for another 5 days ‘to end strike’

Justice Hellen Wasilwa clarified that the stay was for the union officials to cease their industrial action regardless of their talks with the Health Ministry/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 26 – The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials got reprieve Thursday morning after the Employment and Labour Relations Court gave them five more days to call off the strike or serve a one month jail sentence.

While giving the directions, Justice Hellen Wasilwa clarified that the stay was for the union officials to cease their industrial action regardless of their talks with the Health Ministry.

While observing that the matter was grave, she advised them to take advantage of the window and should that not happen, there will be no option but for them to serve their sentences.

“I will suspend this sentence further so the doctors will not be going to jail today, they have five more days. These five days are not for negotiations in my view. They are for calling off the strike because I am dealing with the case of contempt. The negotiations are besides that so you are allowed to continue with the negotiations. So we come back on the 31st of January,” she directed.

The seven union officials led by Ouma Oluga were in court accompanied by hundreds of fellow doctors who marched from Railways Club to Milimani Law Courts, while waving placards and chanting.

The court had ordered them to end the strike by Thursday or prepare to start a one month jail term for contempt on earlier orders, but their lawyers pleaded and asked for more time to resolve the matter.

The union, through lawyer Washika Ochima had filed an urgent suit asking the court to review its orders that gave the union officials two weeks to finalise talks with the government and call off the strike or go to jail.

“My lady, your discretion can come after this court has heard an opportunity to look at the application, the position will still be the same, the sentence is still there. Suspension does not mean that you have in effect completely gone back on your order, it is still there. The essence of this application is that to request the same spirit that you have granted the suspended sentence, we proceed and finalize on the issues that have been dealt with,” he stated.

The officials facing the jail term are Secretary General Ouma Oluga, Chairman Samuel Oroko, Treasurer Daisy Korir, Deputy Treasurer Evelynn Chege, Deputy Secretary General Mwachonda Chibanzi and Vice Chair Allan Ochanji.

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According to the officials, the government was yet to show any willingness to honor their demands as stipulated in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to allow them call off the strike.

Last week, the union held closed-door discussions with Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu but now, both parties are accusing each other of spreading propaganda and engaging in sideshows at the expense of the suffering Kenyans.

Oluga said that during the talks, union officials they had tabled seven different ways for the government to implement the CBA.

He stated that the ways were carefully structured and spaced to ensure minimal or no heavy impact on the country’s budget.

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