One month JAIL SENTENCE for DOCTORS’ union officials
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials were on Thursday given a one month suspended sentence after they were found guilty of contempt of court.
The judge has, however, given the union officials a two-week window to allow return-to-work talks with the government on their demands failure to which they will be arrested and jailed for one month.
“What it means is that for today, I sentence you for one month in jail, suspended sentence which will fall down, the sentence is hanging over your heads. It will fall down on your heads within two weeks if the strike is still on,” Judge Wasilwa ruled.
In her ruling, Judge Hellen Wasilwa accused the union officials of failing to obey a court order to call off doctors’ nationwide strike and resume duty after declaring their strike illegal.
In their defense, union officials led by their Secretary General Ouma Oluga told the court that the officials had no powers to call off the strike as had been ordered without the consent of union members.
The seven KMPDU officials further indicated that their sentencing would plunge the health sector into further crisis.
“Punishing us will not address the issues in the CBA,” said the officials.
On his part, KMPDU Chair Samuel Oroko urged the court not to proceed with the sentencing saying that this would not only jeopardize the process but also put the lives of Kenyans in danger.
“We have responsibilities as officials, we are still negotiating with the government and any form of punishment will only make things worse,” said Oroko.
Judge Hellen Wasilwa, however, insisted that the issues raised before the court were grave.
“So long as the strike is on we cannot hear anybody,” said Judge Wasilwa.
Further, in her ruling the judge accused the KMPDU officials of defying court orders and insisting on the implementation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that is not legally binding, ignoring a plea for leniency by Secretary General Ouma.
“The CBA cannot override the lives of Kenyans,” ruled the Judge.
Justice Hellen Wasilwa further directed the officials to return back to court on January 26th for further direction.
This ruling comes barely 48 hours after the doctors vowed not to resume duty until all their demands are met.
While accusing the government of intimidating them through the courts, the medics said they would not relent in their fight even if arrested.
“Doctors in Kenya are irreplaceable they [the government] are just testing our resolve,” said Oluga.
Last week, the doctors, through their umbrella body -(KMPDU), and the government failed to reach a deal in a meeting that was convened by President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Mombasa.
Led by their union officials, the medics said they appreciated the offer tabled by the government but said that it was not enough, adding that they would continue with negotiations with the government.
The union officials remain adamant to call off the strike insisting that they will only resume duty after the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2013 is fully implemented.
Additional Reporting by Dzuya Walters