Court gives LSK and KNCHR 7 more days to resolve doctors’ strike

Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu ruled Thursday give seven more days to LSK and KNCHR complete the negotiations. The strike has entered its 81st day today.

The now 81-day long doctors’ strike mediation talks started last week Wednesday after the Court of Appeal three-judge bench composed of judges Wanjiru Karanja, Hannah Okwengu and Jamila Mohamed consented that doctors be released immediately to pave way for talks.

“We are mindful of the fact that there is a lot of suffering being experienced in the public health sector and that there is need for the outstanding issues to be resolved as soon as possible. It is however necessary to give the mediators adequate time,” Lady Justice Hannah Okwengu ruled Thursday.

Earlier, doctors had moved to court to appeal a decision by the Employment and Labour Relations Court which preceded the jailing of their union officials for contempt of court. The appeal was argued by senior counsel James Orengo (Siaya Senator) and Philip Murgor (former DPP and presidential hopeful), who had offered to lead the team of lawyers representing the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials.

The Court tasked the Isaac Okero led Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) to lead the mediation talks. Negotiations are set to resume immediately this afternoon.

In joint submission by the mediating team, through lawyers James Orengo and Orao Obura, LSK and KNCHR reported that agreement had been reached on a number of issues but asked for the seven days to resolve what remains contentious.

“We have managed to reach a consensus on a number of issues. There are still some pending issues which the mediators would like to lead the parties on and that being the case, the mediators were requesting that with the leave of the court if they can have seven more days so that we can wrap this whole issue up,"  Obura told the judges.

The Council of Governors, on its part, argued that the granted number days was sufficient. On the other hand, the National Government opined that only three days were enough to end the long running strike, and that the matter could be resolved in court instead of facing the mediating team again.

Parliamentary committees

The ruling this morning precedes a revelation on Wednesday by the former Permanent Secretary to the then Ministry of Health and Sanitation Mark Bor that he signed the tersely contested 2013 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), even when out of office, after the expiry of his office term.

Bor, who is currently the chairman of the Board of Management of Kenyatta National Hospital, told a joint sitting of the House Committees on Labour and Social Welfare and that of Health that he was asked by the then Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and Prof Fred Sigor (now PS for Agriculture) to sign the document to pave way for the doctors to negotiate a final document with the government, hence he diligently executed the directive.

In common practice, his signature would usher in and cement an agreement between the government and doctors, dentists and other medical professionals’ salaries increased and their working environment improved as enumerated in the 2013 CBA.

The CBA signed by the government and Ouma Oluga’s predecessor Sultani Matendechere and Chairman Victor Ng’ani on June 27, 2013 would see a 187 per cent pay hike for all medical practitioners.

Even as the court orders for talks, the fate of the negotiations now hangs in the balance after Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu ruled out further engagements based on the flawed document but the doctors’ union led by their officials Samuel Oroko and Ouma Oluga insisted that “they will not negotiate anything outside of the 2013 CBA.”

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