Court gives county officials second chance in contempt case

The Employment and Labour Relations Court in Eldoret has granted Uasin Gishu County Secretary Edwin Bett and three other top officials found in contempt of a court order a second chance after agreeing to comply with the orders.

The court was to sentence the four to civil jail or slap them with a fine for failure to convert casual workers to permanent and pensionable terms in contempt of the court’s directive issued on June 15, 2023. 

Appearing before Justice Maureen Onyango, Bett alongside County Executive Committee member for Health Sammy Kotut, former Chief Officer for Health and Clinical Services Paul Wangwe, and the County Public Service Board Fransica Bowen vowed to comply with the court’s judgment.

The case had been filed against the devolved unit and the three officials by Joel Bett, John Wachira and Salome Cherono, and 27 others and involved a human rights lobby Centre Against Torture (CAT).

This was after the county through the Public Service Board turned down their request to be confirmed on permanent and pensionable basis despite serving in their current positions for more than six years.

The workers are represented by lawyer Stanley Kagunza while lawyer Mwangi Kang’u represents the county government.

Justice Onyango told the respondents that she had pardoned them on condition that they comply with the orders that the court issued last year.

“The respondents are pardoned on the condition that they comply with the orders of the court,” said Justice Onyango.

In her verdict which was in favor of the aggrieved casual employees, the Judge directed that they be converted to permanent and pensionable terms with the rights and benefits under the Employment Act, 2007. 

Kagunza questioned the county’s intention to have the casual workers serve a six-month probation period before their employment can be confirmed. 

Justice Onyango directed the county to employ the casuals on permanent and pensionable terms with immediate effect. 

The Judge noted that the casuals who have been serving the county for more than six years cannot be subjected to probation.

“The respondents are bound to recognise the petitioners as permanent employees having worked for the respondents continuously for more than six years. You cannot put the workers on probation after they have worked for all those years. The court order says convert to regular employment,” she stated. 

The aggrieved workers were also allowed by the court to join a trade union of their choice with immediate effect.

Kagunza had brought to the attention of the Judge that the county government had totally gone against the orders and instead given the aggrieved workers new posting letters indicating that they would be put on a six-month probation.

Kang’u, representing the county government, dismissed the claims, saying that majority of the aggrieved workers had collected their fresh posting letters on their own volition. 

“We have complied with the court order by issuing the workers with fresh letters of appointment and will earn at least Sh16,000 basic salary and enjoy House and commuter allowances,” he argued.

Justice Onyango directed both parties to file submissions and appear before the court for mention of the matter on June 26 for further directions.

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