NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – Doctors are planning to hold month long vigils in solidarity with seven of their top union officials who were jailed Monday for contempt by the Industrial and Labour Relations court.
Following the ruling, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU) Nairobi Branch Secretary General Thuranira Kaugiria stated that the vigils will be held at the Lang’ata women’s and Industrial Area Prison.
“As it stands, we are disappointed, we have suspended all the negotiations. We will do a vigil today… we will do a vigil every day until the 30 days are over. We have been on strike for 71 days; 30 days are nothing,” he declared.
Kaugiria said talks with government officials can only resume once their colleagues are released.
“The negotiations were ongoing until yesterday, the officials who were part of the negotiators slept after 2am only to come here to court to be taken to jail,” he said.
While describing the decision as premature Kaugiria stated that doctors were now more than ever resolved to fight for their right outlined in the signed 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“The best way forward is for our leaders to be released and compensated for what has happened to them. We need an apology and then we need to complete the negotiations,” he stated.
“You cannot sign a document in 2013 and then you renege on it. You have to sign it and implement it. It is February 13, 2016 and we are discussing a document which is four years old. It cannot be like that.”
The Seven doctors’ union officials found guilty of contempt of court started serving their month-long sentences Monday, after the latest extension given to call off the strike that has paralysed operations in public hospitals for three months expired.
Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Hellen Wasilwa effected the sentence handed to the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials after finding that that no progress has been made in negotiations for which she’s twice granted a grace period.
The seven officials now in jail are the KMPDU Chairperson Samuel Oroko and Secretary General Frederick Oluga. Others are Titus Ondoro, Allan Ochanji, Hamisi Chibanzi, Daisy Korir and Evelyne Chege.
She stated that the applicants had not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue that would warrant review of the jail order.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli who had offered to act as a mediator in the talks admitted at the weekend that he had been unable to end the doctors’ strike, signalling a continuation of the protracted industrial action.
He blamed the prolonged industrial action on antagonism between Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri.
He stated that during the talks, it was discovered that there was infighting at the Ministry of Health that involved the two and this affected negotiations with the doctors’ union.