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Economy

Doctor's union officials get one-month suspended sentence for defying court

Some of the doctors who had filled a courtroom in Nairobi for the ruling over the doctors' strike, January 12, 2017. The Labour court  has sentenced doctors' union officials a to a one-month suspended jail term and ordered them to suspend the strike. PHOTO | MAUREEN KAKAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP.
Some of the doctors who had filled a courtroom in Nairobi for the ruling over the doctors' strike, January 12, 2017. The Labour court has sentenced doctors' union officials a to a one-month suspended jail term and ordered them to suspend the strike. PHOTO | MAUREEN KAKAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

The Labour court has sentenced doctors' union officials to a one-month suspended jail term.

Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Hellen Wasilwa ordered the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KPMDU) officials to finalise negotiations within two weeks and also call of strike.

If after two weeks the strike is not called off, the six KPMDU officials will be locked up in jail for the remaining two weeks, the judge ruled.

She ruled that should the six fail to heed the court order, they will consequently be arrested and locked up at Langata Women's Prison, or Industrial Area or Kamiti prisons for the men.

Weak leaders

In her ruling, Justice Wasilwa condemned the officials for being weak leaders and not being able to make a decision on behalf of their members.

The officials had pleaded with her to be given a lenient sentence saying that the decision to call off strike lies with their members and not them in their own individual capacity.

The judge has also sternly said that there is no existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) registered hence the strike must be called off.

Defy ruling

Shortly after the verdict was issued, doctors in their numbers held a meeting at the Railways Members Club in Nairobi where they said, “Jailing our union leaders will not get us back to work”.

The doctors accused the government of engaging in rhetoric instead of handling their issues.

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

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

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

KMPDU chairman Samuel Oroko vowed not to resume work unless the 2013 CBA is registered and implemented.
He urged their colleagues in the private sector to stop treating "bureaucrats" and ask that medical schools be shut down because the doctors who are trained in those institutions "will only be abused by the government."
They doctors said they "will strike harder until they are listened to. Will not pick letters or respond to any summons by counties."

In a series of tweets on their KMDU 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.”

Guilty of contempt

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.

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