Reprieve for Embu medics as court relaxes orders barring strike

Empty beds after relatives withdrew their patients from Embu referral hospital following a strike by health workers on Tuesday  last week.  

Photo credit: George Munene I Nation Media Group

The Employment and Labour Relations Court on Tuesday relaxed its orders suspending a strike by Embu health workers strike, who are complaining about poor working conditions, pending the hearing and determination of a suit filed by the county government.

Nyeri judge Njagi Marete issued the directive during a virtual court session after the Embu county government and its Public Service Board, who filed the suit last Friday, failed to show up in court  for the hearing.

While issuing the orders, he however agreed with the county employees, through their trade unions, that they would not go on strike, pending the determination of the suit in court.

This means that even though there are no orders barring the health workers from conducting demonstrations, they cannot strike over the issues raised in the suit already in court.

Governor Martin Wambora's administration  has sued the Kenya Union of Clinical officers (Kuco), Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers (Knumlo), Kenya Union of Pharmaceutical Technologists (Knupt) and the Kenya Union of Domestic Hotel Educational Institution and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).

During the hearing, only two lawyers representing three of the trade unions were present. 

“The suit cannot proceed today because of the absence of the petitioners who are supposed to prosecute the application barring the health workers from proceeding with their strike,” he said.

Lawyers Odongo Okatch who represented Kuco, Knun and Knumlo told the court that the county government had not personally served them with the order or application by Embu County Secretary Johnson Nyaga seeking to bar the strike.

As a result, lawyer Okatch said the trade unions were unable to respond to the application by Tuesday, as directed by the court order of June 24.

Acquired in bad faith

“Our members only got to know about the court order on social media and could not tell whether it was genuine or fake but even so they decided to honour it and go back to work,” said lawyer Okatch.

The trade unions said the orders were acquired in bad faith since the county government did not bother following up on the matter in court.

In his orders, Justice Marete also asked the petitioners to serve the trade unions with court documents of the suit in the next two weeks, failure of which it would dismiss the matter.

“The case will be mentioned on July 21 for the petitioners to confirm whether all parties have been served,”the judge ordered.

The health workers in Embu had downed their tools last week protesting poor working conditions, paralysing services at the referral hospital.

The workers, however, resumed duties following Friday's court orders.


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