The Labour Court has stopped four governors from sacking striking nurses who have not resumed duty after a directive from the Council of Governors.
Justice Byram Ongaya, while sitting in Nyeri Labour and Employment Court, barred governors Nderitu Muriithi (Laikipia), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) and Mwangi Wairia (Murang’a) from recruiting new nurses to fill the 1,458 positions.
The judge also cancelled advertisements placed in the media two weeks ago by the respective county governments inviting applicants for the sacked nurses’ positions.
Judge Ongaya issued the orders after the Kenya National Union of Nurses moved to court under certificate of urgency and named the four counties as respondents in the suit.
“The respondents shall not undertake recruitment, selection, appointment or employment of other persons with a view of replacing the members still in employment,” said the judge.
He further directed the nurses’ union and the respective County Public Service Boards to engage in negotiations towards amicable resolution of the matters in dispute.
The union, through lawyer Odongo Okatch said the county governments unilaterally, unlawfully and unconstitutionally advertised for the positions seeking to replace the current staff.
The lawyer said the nurses were seconded to the devolved units of governance by the national government.
He said the governors’ move was unprocedural as they failed to engage the union and without any justifiable reasons.
He said the Laikipia government had advertised for 155 Registered Nursing officers Job Group Three while Machakos had advertised for 690 vacancies of registered community health nurse, midwifery, critical cadre, renal unit, anaesthetics, psychiatrists and paediatrics.
Murang’a government had invited applicants for 427 vacancies of nurses in the department of health while Taita Taveta had announced for 186 opportunities.
The lawyer told the court that the sackings amounted to discrimination, victimization, unfair labour practices and anti-trade union activity.
He said there was a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) baring hiring of nurses on contract without engaging the union for information and concurrence of welfare of the nurses.
He indicated that the strike would have been averted if county governments honoured a negotiated agreement dated December 14, 2016 between the union and representatives of the two levels of government.
He said council of governors was under obligation to formulate a CBA for the nurses within two months from the date of signing but not later than March 2, 2017.
Mr Okatch said the council of governors invited the union for signing ceremony of the CBA but it never happened, compelling the union to call for a strike.
He said the nurses ran out of patience awaiting signing of their CBA as agreed.
The lawyer added that signing of the CBA would have created a fertile ground for industrial unease in the health sector.
“The respondents should have taken the necessary steps to avert the ongoing strike rather than punishing the nurses who are participating in the strike,” he argued.
He said the nurses informed the union that they were informally asked to follow the instructions of the council of governors and report to work.
“It was a misleading directive as the nurses are employed by the county public service boards and not the council of governors since the respondents are employment agencies whose functions are to deal with employment matters on behalf of the county governments as provided under section 59 of the County Governments Act laws of Kenya,” he indicated.
The case was fixed for inter parties hearing on November 3.