Appeals court gives doctors final chance to end strike

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The Court of Appeal has given parties involved in talks aimed at ending the ongoing doctors’ strike a final chance to resolve the stalemate. PHOTO | MAUREEN KAKAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Doctors have until Tuesday to end their three months strike stalemate.

Court of Appeal judges Hannah Okwengu, Martha Koome and Jamilla Mohammed have Monday asked parties involved in negotiations aimed at ending the stalemate to reach an agreement on the return to work formula document presented by doctors.

The judges asked the Health ministry to “lower their ego” and participate in reaching an agreement on the return to work formula document in order to resolve the strike.

However, the judges warned that should parties fail to reach an agreement by Tuesday, the matter will be referred back to the Employment and Labour Relations Court where the case on the collective bargaining agreement is supposed to be heard.

The judges also said that the court will on deal with the appeal on the jail sentence earlier imposed on the doctors’ union’s officials and later suspended after Tuesday.

The Monday ruling came after the doctors’ union presented a return to work formula saying that it is ready for signing if the other parties agree to do so.

If governors and the Health ministry agree to sign the return to work agreement draft presented by the doctors, the strike will be called off.

WITHDREW OFFER

But the lawyer representing the Health ministry and the Attorney-General, Ms Stella Mbitho, told the court that the government had withdrawn its offer to the doctors as well as its draft return to work formula agreement.

At the same time, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) asked the State to consider having the return to work formula agreement signed so that the strike could be called off as soon as possible.

Religious leaders on their part vowed to continue mediating talks between the government and the doctors.

Last week appellate judges Hannah Okwengu, Martha Koome and Kantai ole Sankale directed the Health ministry, governors and the doctors’ union officials to finalise the signing of three key documents to end the three-month-old strike.

The three-judge bench led by Lady Justice Koome, had also tasked religious leaders and the union officials to lead the parties into the signing of the recognition agreement, revised collective bargaining agreement and the return to work formula at the governors summit in Naivasha.

But the religious leaders had told the Court of Appeal that despite an agreement being reached on the financial aspect of the disputed CBA, there was still a disagreement on which of the three documents should be signed first.

The doctors wanted the CBA to come first owing to fears that they may be short-changed a second time but the Health ministry and county bosses wanted the return to work formula and the recognition agreement to be dealt with first.

RELIGIOUS LEADERS

The judges had congratulated the religious leaders for making the parties in the dispute reach a settlement on money issues which for a long time had been the bone of contention.

Through the religious leaders’ input, the union had agreed to take President Uhuru Kenyatta’s offer to increase their risk and emergency call allowances which would have seen the doctors wage bill increase to Sh14.5 billion.

The judges were optimistic that parties would record a consent in court this Monday on having the matter settled and that doctors would finally call off the strike.

But soon after the court proceedings on Tuesday last week, the government and the governors said they will not be holding any further talks with doctors and cancelled all offers made to them.

SACK THREAT

Doctors were also asked to resume duty with immediate effect or be sacked.

There are those who opted to resume work but claimed to have received threats from the union.

Since the government and county bosses say they will not be holding further talks, the doctors’ union now wants at least the return to work formula be signed so that they call off the strike.

The judges had indicated that the Court of Appeal would not be sitting this week but promised to ensure a special bench is constituted to handle the case Monday since they termed the matter as one of high public interest.

The hearing of an appeal on the jailing of union officials for contempt of court had been set aside to allow for talks aimed at resolving the strike stalemate.

But the appeal case was to resume if talks completely failed to bear fruit.

©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation

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