For the third time in a row, the labour court has suspended the jail sentence handed to doctors’ union officials for calling a strike against its orders.
Employment and Labour Relations Judge Hellen Wasilwa on Friday put off the sentence for another seven days to allow for mediation on the matter.
She also handed the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) the authority to lead the talks between Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the government.
This is after Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli offered to help resolve the standoff between KMPDU and the government that has pushed the strike into its third month.
Mr Atwoli pleaded with the court to suspend the jail sentence yet again and hand him the chance to help resolve the stalemate that has seen poor Kenyans suffer the most.
Outside court, Mr Atwoli said the negotiations would be straightforward.
Cotu, he said, had chosen not to join the talks earlier because it wanted to allow the parties involved to settle the matter on their own.
Mr Atwoli told the judge that he had never lost a mediation case, and hoped he would not lose this one.
The negotiations will involve the Council of Governors, the Attorney-General’s office, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, the Federation of Kenyan Employers, KMPDU and the Treasury.
KNHCR has joined the case as a friend of the court and is seeking to help end the suffering of patients.
The suspension of the sentence ends on February 13.
Judge Wasilwa had suspended the sentence twice before, with instructions to KMPDU chiefs to call off the strike and continue talks with their employer.
However, the union stuck to its guns and carried on with the job boycott as talks with the central government faltered.
The medics downed their tools in December last year to push the government to implement a 2013 collective bargaining agreement that, among other things, raises their salaries and improves their working terms and conditions.
But both the central government and the Council of Governors refused to honour the document, saying they were not involved in its negotiation.
The Senate Health Committee recently said the document is stale and advised doctors to come up with a new one.
Alleastafrica and Daily Nation