NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31 – The Employment and Labour Relations Court will on Friday rule on a petition by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials, seeking a review of the one-month jail sentences they are facing.
The ruling came after the officials pressed hard for a review of the sentences, describing them as unfair and stating that it would adversely affect the negotiation process.
The seven union officials through lawyer Edgar Washika contended that the sentences, which were to begin if they failed to call of their ongoing strike are unfair to them since the cooperation of other parties was needed.
“Your Ladyship, you instructed the union to stop the strike within a specific period and it has done all it can in its power to do so. However, the negotiation process cannot be one sided. It has to be two way,” he argued.
The seven officials facing jail are the KMPDU Chairperson Samuel Oroko, Secretary General Frederick Oluga. Other are Titus Ondoro, Allan Ochanji, Hamisi Chibanzi, Daisy Korir and Evelyne Chege.
He further enumerated the steps taken by the union to resolve the strike which has paralysed operations in public hospitals for 58 days.
He stated that the Council of Governors which was an integral part to the process showed no interest whatsoever in the negotiations.
“The Council of Governors were not willing to engage with the doctors and they have not even attempted to resolve the matter. Negotiations cannot be one sided and the orders should also apply to them too,” he said.
Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior who also appeared for the union stated the need for an all-inclusive process and indicated that should the officials be jailed, it would disrupt the negotiations.
“What the union wants is an all-inclusive process to resolve the matter. The Health Cabinet Secretary should be compelled to provide the court with the steps he has taken to ensure the strike has been called off,” he said.
“The Council of Governors has not even bothered to call for a meeting. The CS for Social Services has not done anything. The court now needs to issue new guidelines on the way forward.”
Lawyer Eunice Lumallas who was appearing for the Council of Governors however stated that the application by doctors lacked merit and should be thrown out.
Her sentiments were echoed by the advocate for the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital David Masese who argued that the union officials had abused the court process and that their application should be dismissed.
Following their submissions, Justice Hellen Wasilwa suspended the sentences until after the ruling.
“Having accepted to hear the application for review, this court has an obligation to also render a judgement or a ruling to the application that is before it. I will therefore do so on February 3 this week and in the meantime I still suspend the sentence to that date,” she ruled.
The union officials have been sentenced to one month in jail for contempt of court after failing to call off the ongoing strike.
Justice Wasilwa had suspended the sentences, during which time they are required to call off the strike.
She had termed their mitigation as insensitive to the plight of Kenyans because they have failed to call off the strike over a month later, in total disregard of the court orders issued on December 1 declaring the industrial action illegal.