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Doctors in last minute attempt to save officials from impending one month jail sentence

Health & Science - By Paul O Ogemba | January 25th 2017 at 05:11:50 GMT +0300

Doctors have a made a last minute attempt to save their officials from an impending one month jail sentence over the ongoing strike.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) through lawyer Washika Ochima filed an urgent suit asking the court to review its orders which gave the union officials two weeks to finalise talks with the government and call off the strike or go to jail.

"The officials complied with the directive and engaged the government but they did not show commitment resulting to the current stalemate. The officials are however committed to the talks and are asking for review of the directions and be given two more weeks," said Ochima.

Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa on January 12 sentenced KMPDU officials to a suspended one month jail term for disobeying a court order to end their strike.

She gave the officials, Samuel Oroko, Fredrick Oluga, Titus Ondoro, Allan Ochanji, Hamisi Chibanzi, Daisy Korir and Evelyne Chege up to January 25 to conclude negotiations with the government or start their jail term on January 26.

The union however accused Health CS Cleopa Mailu and the Council of Governors of taking advantage of the impending imprisonment to frustrate the negotiations and arm-twist them to call off the strike.

KMPDU secretary Dr Oluga in his affidavit supporting the application stated that sending them to custodial sentence will further jeopardise negotiations as there will be no one to engage the government with a view to ending the stalemate.

"We have done our part to comply with the court's directive but the CS and the Council of Governors have taken advantage of the impending sentence to frustrate the talks. That is why we believe another two weeks extension will help us reach an agreement," swore Oluga.

He added that the impending custodial sentence has disadvantaged the union officials in the negotiating table and caused them mental anguish and distress when engaging the government.

Dr Olugo swore that it is in the interest of the public who continue to suffer as a result of their strike that their jail sentence be suspended and for both parties to have a common approach in settling the disputed 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"The court can help expedite resolving the dispute by ordering the CS and the Council of Governors not to frustrate negotiations by absenting themselves from negotiation meetings," swore Oluga.

Mr Ochima argued that the court has power to review its orders when one party in a dispute fails to show commitment and is taking advantage of the situation to frustrate the other party.

Lady Justice certified the application as urgent and directed that it be served on the Health CS and the CoG before the January 26 hearing.

The judge had on December 20 last year found the officials guilty of contempt, ruling that the doctors had been adamant in continuing with the strike despite being aware of the court order that suspended the strike and gave room for negotiations.

According to the judge, KMPDU officials had clearly stated they would not obey the court order and that she will would not sit and condone open defiance of court orders.

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