NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – The Court of Appeal has granted the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Law Society of Kenya seven more days to bring the 81-day doctors’ strike to an end.
The mediators through lawyers James Orengo and Orao Obura reported that progress had been made on a number of issues, but asked for the seven days to resolve what remains contentious.
“We have managed to reach a consensus on a number of issues. There are still some pending issues which the mediators would like to lead the parties on and that being the case, the mediators were requesting with the leave of the court if they can have seven more days so that we can wrap this whole issue up” Obura told the court.
While the Council of Governors and the National Government did not oppose the application, they expressed different views on how much more time should be given to the alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
“A number of diagnosis have been made for what is really ailing the doctors and the former CJ (Willy Mutunga) would be happy to note that we’ve taken a whole range of what he suggested in March 2015: negotiations, mediations, they’ve been prayers even in a church and probably the only thing that wasn’t done is witchcraft which is what he had also proposed. But we know that probably what the problem may be a viral infection which may need to run its full course,” lawyer Eunice Lumallas opined.
The Council of Governors argued that two days were sufficient, while the National Government was of the opinion that three days were sufficient and if no resolution was reached at that stage, the matter should be decided by the courts.
The Court of Appeal judges while noting that the issue before them was literally life or death granted the mediators’ prayer for seven more days but with the provision that they were free to return to court with a progress report sooner.
“We are mindful of the fact that there is a lot of suffering being experienced in the public health sector and that there is the need for the outstanding issues to be resolved as soon as possible. It is, however, necessary to give the mediators adequate time,” Justice Hannah Okwengu ruled.
The mediators had sought help from the court over leaking information in the ongoing talks, but instead, Justice Okwengu said it will be safe for them to remain with the progress report since court documents are public.
All parties have agreed that majority of issues in the disputed 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement but they did not highlight the contentious bit.
On Wednesday, former Principal Secretary Mark Bor confirmed that he signed the controversial Collective Bargaining Agreement with doctors after he had already left office in June 2013.
Bor told a joint sitting of House Committees on Labour and Social Welfare and that of Health that he was asked by the then Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia to sign the document to pave way for the doctors to negotiate a final document with the government.
His signature was to symbolise that the government had agreed to increase salaries for doctors, dentists and other medical professionals.
Bor claimed the new team at the ministry wanted a working document to guide them because the doctors union had started shifting stands arrived at the talks at the time while insisting it was an interim document that was to guide negotiations at a later stage.
The CBA signed by the government and former KMPDU Secretary General Sultani Matendechero and Chairman Victor Ng’ani on June 27, 2013, would see a 187 per cent pay hike for all medical practitioners.
The agreement also included a review of job groups, promotions, deployment as well as the annual recruitment of 1,200 doctors to reduce the doctor-patient ratio.
It remains unclear whether the new revelations will impact negatively on the ongoing negotiations.