The Employment and Labour Relations Court has allowed the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) to file judicial review proceedings challenging the Laikipia County government’s decision to sack 62 doctors who participated in an illegal strike in June.
In his ruling, Justice Nzioki wa Makau ordered the union to file its proceedings within 21 days and serve the county government together with its public service board.
The respondents will file their response within 21 days.
The judge said the doctors who are already back to work should continue with their duties while those who are still absconding will stay out.
“The court is minded that positions previous held by the doctors are in the process of being filled. It is also notes some of the doctors have been appointed to their positions. Status quo applies to the applicants before court pending hearing and determination of the judicial review,” said the judge.
Led by Dr Davji Bhinji Atella, who is the union’s South Rift branch secretary, the doctors said the county government terminated their employment unprocedurally by signing a shorter notice, contrary to the Public Service Human Resource Manual.
“The actions were guided by malice as the respondents have subsequently purported to withdraw termination letters of 26 doctors in a posting order dated June 28, 2019,” said Dr Atella.
In an affidavit, Dr Atella said there was no justification to allow some doctors back to the service and leave others out.
While urging the court to stop the recruitment of medical officers, dentists, pharmacists, medical specialists and pharmaceutical specialist, Dr Atella said the doctors are in an imminent risk of suffering irreparable harm.
But County Secretary Karanja Njora said the doctors were lawfully and fairly dismissed for gross misconduct for absenting themselves from their designated workplaces during usual working hours.
He said before termination, the doctors were warned that they would face lawful disciplinary action should they continue absconding duty in the guise of engaging in the strike.
“The respondents moved to court seeking orders on the strike. The orders were issued in favour of the respondents and the strike was declared unprotected and illegal by the court. The doctors disobeyed the order and never resumed duty or reported to their stations,” explained Mr Njora in his supplementary affidavit.
By defying the order, Mr Njora observed, the doctors exposed themselves to lawful disciplinary actions. He said the sacking of the doctors was in public interest and in the interest of thousands of patients who were foregoing essential medical services.
“Due to the continued defiance and the crisis caused by absence of the KMPDU members, I wrote show-cause letters dated June 10, 2019 requiring them to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against them,” said Mr Karanja.
The case will be mentioned on September 23, 2019 for further directions.