Jailing of Doctor's Union Official Marks a new low - Raila Odinga

We are horrified, disturbed and shocked by the jailing of doctors union officials by Labour court earlier today for their refusal to call off a legitimate strike. The action marks the lowest point that Jubilee’s intransigence, incompetence and inability to lead has brought the nation to.

Rather than resolve the crisis in the health sector, the jailing of union officials deepens it and sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It marks out the government as a dishonest and unreliable employer whose word, even in writing count for nothing. That has grim implications for resolving future conflicts between the government, employees and other entities, including the strike by university lecturers which is equally taking a bad turn as the government fumbles.

The idea that the courts are now the entities to resolve disputes between employers and employees is dangerous and disturbing. It goes against the constitutionally-protected right of workers to withhold labour when they are in disagreement with the employer and especially when the employer in this case the government, is reneging on an agreement.

Under Article 41 of our Constitution:
(1) Every person has the right to fair labour practices.
(2) Every worker has the right—
(a) to fair remuneration;
(b) to reasonable working conditions;
(c) to form, join or participate in the activities and programmes
of a trade union; and
(d) to go on strike.
Under the same article, every trade union, employers’ organisation and employer has the right to engage in collective bargaining.

Unable to lead and negotiate, the government instead resorted to hostage taking. The court had created opportunities for the government to resolve the issues around the CBA it signed with doctors. The government spurned all those opportunities and instead took advantage of the suspended sentence to blackmail the doctors. The action is meant to arm twist the doctors to accept what they don’t agree with when in fact, the government is the problem.

In fact, Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli who tried to resolve the dispute concluded that the infighting between the Health CS Cleopa Mailu and the Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri had paralysed negotiations and appealed to the President to provide leadership. We have instructed our lawyers to immediately convene and take up the doctor’s case against the government.

In the meantime, we are reminding President Uhuru Kenyatta that he has spent these last four years trying to avoid the problems facing Kenyans. The President has spent the four years assigning blame and avoiding responsibility. The President has spent these four years trying to look and remain cool. The President has spent these four years leading from behind, snubbing important issues and hoping that they resolve themselves.

If the president cannot rise to the challenge of leadership, then, for the good of the nation, he must own up and let Kenyans know they are on their own.