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Judge Wasilwa orders KMPDU chiefs to serve a month in jail

Monday February 13 2017

MAUREEN KAKAH
By MAUREEN KAKAH
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 EUNICE KILONZO
By EUNICE KILONZO
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The labour court has jailed officials of the doctors' union for contempt.

Judge Hellen Wasilwa on Monday lifted the suspension on the one-month sentence she had imposed on the officials when they failed to comply with the court's conditions.

She had asked top chiefs of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Unions (KMPDU) to call off their job boycott and engage the government in talks. 

The affected officials include Chairman Samuel Oroko and Secretary-General Ouma Oluga who, on December 20, were found guilty of contempt after they ordered their members to boycott work from December 5.

TENSE SESSION

The other officials are Daisy Korir, Evelyne Chege, Allan Ochanji, Mwachonda Chibandzi and Titus Ondoro.

They were all handcuffed and were expected to be driven to Industrial Area and Langata prisons in Nairobi soon after the tense court session.

The judge ruled that KMPDU officials did not provide sufficient reasons why the court should review their one-month jail sentence.

“The applicants have not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue, or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record, or any sufficient cause that would warrant review of the court’s order,” Judge Wasilwa said.

The officials, she said, did not explain why they chose to disobey an order issued in December.

FAILED TALKS

She also faulted the KMPDU leaders for failing to table in court documents showing the proceedings of their negotiations with the government.

The court on February 3 spared the officials jail after Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli requested the court to have him lead the then faltering talks along with the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

But on Sunday, the talks seemed to have hit a dead end, with Mr Atwoli admitting that he had failed.

Mr Atwoli did not attend the Monday session and the KNCHR, through lawyer Suyianka Lempaa, pleaded with the judge to give negotiators an additional seven days to wrap up talks.

But the judge declined their request and went ahead to read her verdict on the application in which the officials had sought to have the jail sentence reviewed.

COG CASE

The jail sentence was first passed on January 12 but the judge suspended it before suspending it again on two occasions to give the KMPDU and the government more time to reach a settlement.      

Justice Wasilwa's judgement followed a suit filed by the Council of Governors, which had obtained a court order stopping the industrial action that entered its 72nd day on Monday.

Doctors protested the jailing of their bosses, saying they had suspended their talks with the government until the seven officials are released.

At their meeting at the Railways Club, Nairobi, they demanded that Health minister Cleopa Mailu and his Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri must go.

Mr Atwoli on Sunday blamed his failed mediation talks on top officials of the Health ministry and KMPDU.

JOB BOYCOTT

They claimed that they were ready to carry on with the job boycott for the next six months.

They appointed a stand-in committee to handle their affairs as they wait for the release of their union bosses.

The interim team is led by Dr Richard Mogeni and he will be assisted by Dr Denis Miskellah, Dr Wesley Ooga, Dr Allan Makokha, all NEC members and other top branch leaders.

The team, however, has no mandate to negotiate with the government. The health workers said they would hold a night vigil at the two prisons.

Rights activist Boniface Mwangi, who joined the Railways meeting, said he would join the doctors on Wednesday in their march to State House to demand for their rights                       

This came as University of Nairobi medical students based at Kenyatta National Hospital said they would block Ngong Road on Tuesday morning to demand the release of the seven officials.

2013 CBA

Doctors downed their tools to push the government to implement a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) they signed in 2013 that, among others, sought to improve their salaries and working conditions in public hospitals.

But the government rejected the CBA, with governors saying they were not involved in the 2013 deal though they employ 80 per cent of doctors after the health services were devolved.

The Senate Health Committee recently told doctors to abandon the CBA and gun for a new one because the old deal was signed by Mark Bor, a permanent secretary it said had been demoted two days earlier.

The jailing of the officials now deepens the crisis that has gripped health facilities across the country, with poor patients bearing the brunt of the two-month paralysis.