The Employment and Labour Relations Court has suspended the ongoing strike by clinical officers in Tharaka-Nithi until a case filed by the county government is heard and determined.
Justice Nzioki wa Makau on Wednesday declared the strike that started on November 4, 2019 illegal and unprotected. This means the clinical officers should resume duty immediately.
The county government, in an application certified urgent by the court, said the strike called by the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers was interfering with the smooth running of healthcare services.
Through lawyer Edwin Saluny, the county government said the union had issued a 21-day strike notice on September 30, 2019.
But while negotiations were ongoing, the union issued the county government with another notice dated October 17, 2019 where the clinical officers threatened to withdraw their services on November 1.
However, on October 23, the county government and the union entered into an agreement in which it was agreed that the strike would stay suspended up to January 6, 2020.
Despite the agreement, the clinical officers downed their work tools on November 4, 2019, a move that disrupted provision of health services in the county.
“The action came as a surprise as parties had agreed that the strike be suspended to January 2020 and all avenues of dispute resolution provided in the recognition agreement and Labour Relations Act had not been exhausted,” said Mr Saluny.
While insisting that the strike had gravely prejudiced the patients, the lawyer added that the industrial action, if not stopped, would have disastrous consequences.
In the application, the lawyer also wanted an order directing the union and the county government to appear before a conciliatory committee appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Services.
According to the county government’s principal legal officer, Lilian Gatwiri Kiruja, the union failed to attempt the conciliation process before calling for the strike. In the strike notice, the union was demanding harmonisation of their medical cover and enrolment into a pension scheme.
It also wanted the employer to recruit more health officers so as to address the shortage of staff and payment of unspecified amount of salary arrears.
The case will be mentioned on November 25.