Judge hands KMPDU one-month suspended jail term

Thursday January 12 2017

By MAUREEN KAKAH
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By EUNICE KILONZO
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The Employment and Labour Relations Court has sentenced six officials of the doctors' union to a one-month suspended sentence.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa ordered Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials to call off the strike and finalise negotiations in the next two weeks.

Handing out the judgement on Thursday morning, Justice Wasilwa said if the strike is not ended in two weeks the officials will serve a two-week jail time.

In her ruling, Judge Wasilwa condemned the officials, saying they are weak leaders unable to make decisions on behalf of union members.

The officials had pleaded with her for a lenient sentence, saying the decision to call off the strike lies with union members and not leaders in their own individual capacity.

JUDGE: NO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT

The judge sternly said there is no existing collective bargaining agreement registered and hence the strike must be called off.

Shortly after the verdict was issued, doctors in their numbers held a meeting at the Railways Members Club, where they said that jailing their leaders would not get them to return to work.

The doctors accused the government of engaging in rhetoric instead of addressing their grievances.

"We are even ready to go back to work but what equipment or gloves are there in the hospitals for our work?" said Kabaa Kimani, a consulting surgeon at the Kenyatta National Hospital, in an address to the doctors.

Dr Kimani added: “You cannot retain doctors in the public sector if you are paying MCAs more than these health workers. Ask Matiang'i to speak to his colleagues in the Health ministry.”

“How do they expect us to negotiate with a noose down our neck?” he posed.

In a series of tweets on the KMPDU Twitter page, the doctors said:

“Kenyan doctors are ready to go to any extent to ensure our beloved country gets a health care system that responds to her people's needs

“The Kenyan doctors hope this will be the last #DoctorsStrike, that is why we oppose cosmetic solutions to deep rooted crisis

“We pray that the government will take advantage of the window provided by the court to engage meaningful on implementation of the CBA with doctors

“Kenyans Doctors are resolute, united in resolve to better Healthcare system in this country. Nothing will derail this train of universal health care.”

Doctors’ union officials appeared in court after being found guilty of contempt.

On Tuesday, the judge issued a warrant of arrest against five KMPDU officials after they skipped a court session.

Justice Wasilwa also directed the Kilimani Police Station commander to assist the court in arresting Samuel Obegithe, Titus Ondoro, Fredrick Oluga, Hamisi Chibanzi and Daisy Korir and present them before her Thursday.

Early last month, the judge ruled that the union officials had disobeyed orders stopping a nationwide strike.

But doctors and nurses went ahead and downed their tools on December 5, 2016.

However, nurses, through their union, held successful talks with the government and signed their collective bargaining agreement.

Doctors have remained adamant about their industrial action, saying they will not call off the strike despite the judge's orders.

The matter spilled over to the courts after the Council of Governors sued the health workers' unions.