Court orders striking doctors to attend talks called by Public Service head Felix Koskei

Striking doctors protest outside Afya House in Nairobi during a past job boycott. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Parties involved in negotiations to end the ongoing doctors' strike have been ordered to attend a meeting called by Public Service chief Felix Koskei scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday).

Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Byram Ongaya said all parties should physically attend the meeting at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) pavilion from 4:45pm in order to reach a sustainable solution to the ongoing negotiations and mediation.

The meeting, convened by Mr Koskei, is expected to address the issues raised by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacist and Dentist Union (KMPDU) in the strike notice, as well as the minimum essential services to be strictly maintained in the event of a strike.

The services must include the number of doctors in each cadre of union members and the respective duties to be performed without rendering the strike ineffective.

Justice Ongaya further directed that the Memorandum of Understanding be filed with the court on the next date of mention on April 3.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the strike remains suspended to pave the way for the ongoing negotiations," Justice Byram Ongaya said.

Other parties ordered to attend the talks or their representatives are CS Finance - Prof Njuguna Ndung'u, Public Service Moses Kuria, Labour and Social Protection Florence Bore, Salaries and Remuneration Commission, Public Service Commission and the Council of Governors.

The court had also ordered each of the 47 county governors, the Confederation of Kenya Employers and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU-K) to attend the negotiations to fully address all grievances that led to the strike notice.

The judge also ordered the parties to continue attending negotiations before the mediator, Linus Kariuki, at the Ministry of Labour at 10am on Thursday.

The union issued a strike notice on 6 March, citing disputes over pay, contract terms and the promotion of consultants.

However, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) went to court to challenge the industrial action as illegal. Instead, KNH asked the court to order the parties to appear before the conciliation committee for tripartite talks and to conclude a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that would address the issues raised by KMPDU.

In an affidavit, Jane Akunda, KNH's chief human resources officer, said the strike notice was premature as negotiations between the parties were still ongoing and no dispute had been reported to the Ministry of Labour.

KMPDU has opposed the petition, saying despite submitting to mediation and being given ample time, all the issues raised in an earlier strike notice issued in November 2022 remain unresolved, calling into question the seriousness of the employers in resolving the issues arising primarily from the CBAs of June 30, 2017 and July 6, 2017.

KMPDU General Secretary Davji Atella said in an affidavit that the issues have been outstanding for a long time and despite numerous attempts to resolve them, they remain unresolved.

He said negotiations between the parties have been slow and remain unfinished due to the "nonchalant approach to the matter" by the employer and the SRC.

Dr Atella said the public service employers have collectively made efforts to prolong, delay and frustrate the conciliation process before Mr Kisurulia Kuloba, who has on several occasions condemned the inaction and frustration of the said public service employers.

His members, he said, have not benefited from the majority of the provisions of their respective CBAs in general and basic salaries in particular from July 2017 to date and the Ministry of Health has been inconsistent in posting medical interns in terms of the CBA of July 6, 2017.