NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 12 – The Employment and Labour Relations Court has given the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) officials two weeks to resolve the ongoing doctors’ strike or go to jail for one month for contempt of Court.

While delivering her ruling on this morning, Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa observed that the Union’s officials had disobeyed the Court and stated that Court orders must be obeyed no matter how ‘unpalatable’ they seem. She noted that the Court had nullified the strike on 1st December 2016, but that doctors had ignored the Court’s direction.

“You have told me that you’re still negotiating so I will give you a small window to ensure the negotiations continue. But in the same vein, this window is only open for two weeks. What this means is that for today I sentence you to one month in jail suspended sentence. The sentence will fall down on your head within two weeks if the strike is still on after two weeks. I don’t know if you get me. If the strike is still on after two weeks, you will be arrested wherever you are,” Lady Justice Wasilwa ruled.

The Judge at the same time revealed that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that the Union has been clamoring for was invalid as it has not yet been registered by the Court. She said that the Court had to protect and uphold the rule of law and that the doctors would have to be held to account for ignoring the Court’s direction.

Said the Judge; “Let Kenyans know that the CBA that you are talking about does not exist. A CBA must be registered by the Court for it to be recognized and what you are talking about has not been registered. Tell your members that there is no CBA.”

The Union officials, who were led by the National Chairman Dr. Samuel Oroko and Secretary General Dr. Ouma Oluga, had earlier pleaded their case urging the Judge to give them a lenient sentence. They explained that talks with the Government would collapse and worsen the situation if they were sent to jail.

They also cited various familial responsibilities; individual health concerns; lack of awareness on the contempt of Court charges as well as their inability to call off the strike. Lady Justice Wasilwa however reminded the officials that they are the Union’s leaders and that their lawyers were present in Court when she made her ruling.

“The two weeks are for you to finish the negotiations as leaders who are leaders. If not you should be impeached. You should not be officials if you cannot control your members and you cannot tell me that you are helpless,” she stated.

The Judge also directed the officials to go back to Court on January 26 for further direction. Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa had on January 10 found KMPDU officials guilty of contempt of Court and ordered them to appear in Court today without fail.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta met with KMPDU leaders in Mombasa County and offered them a 40 percent pay rise. This would have seen the least paid doctor earn a monthly gross salary of Ksh196,989 up from the current Ksh140,244. The offer would cost the government KSh4 billion every year. The doctors however rejected the offer insisting on a 300 percent pay hike.