Gitonga Murugaru, MP, Chair National Assembly Justice & Legal Affairs Committee at KICC Nairobi.
By Benard Mulwa
The Employment and Labour Relations Annual Symposium and Exhibition (ELRASE) kicked-off in Nairobi today that also saw the court and its stakeholders celebrate 10 years of judicial service delivery to Kenyans. Speaking at the event Chief Justice Martha Koome said the Judiciary has established three divisions to enable the institution tackle the challenges of the ELRC’s caseload effectively and delivering justice without delay.
She said the Judiciary has taken decisive steps to accelerate service delivery in the capital by creating the Judicial Review & Labour Rights, the Appeals Division, and the Claims and Labour Relations division. This, the CJ noted during the opening ceremony of the four-day symposium that the creation of the divisions is in recognition of the considerable volume of cases emanating from Nairobi.
The Chief Justice said the court has made contributions to the growing body of social justice jurisprudence through the recognition of domestic workers as employees entitled to minimum wages, social security, and other benefits. It has also declared itself on the unfair dismissal and award of compensation for employees who were terminated on account of their HIV status, pregnancy, disability, or religious faith.
She also revealed the Judiciary has extended the reach of the ELRC across the country by establishing 10 ELRC stations and an additional 11 sub-registries to increase access to justice. The Chief Justice said that increasing footprint of the Court is a testament to the Judiciary’s pledge to take justice closer to the people, to ensure that every Kenyan, no matter where they live, has access to fair and impartial judgement.
She urged the ELRC to strive towards becoming the model employment court in Africa, a shining example for others to emulate. Further, she asked the Court to prioritize the 2,293 cases that have been pending in the court for over three years for resolution by December of this year. “Let us continue to develop progressive social justice jurisprudence, to innovate in service delivery, and to leverage technology to become a fully digital court,” said the CJ. She commended the court for posting an impressive Case Clearance Rate of 168 per cent in the third quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year and reduction of case backlog by 18 per cent, terming it a beacon of efficiency.
She urged the Court to continue working closely with stakeholders in the labour industry through the Court User Committees (CUCs), to ensure that Kenya’s justice system is responsive and adaptive to the changing realities of our labour market.
Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu urged delegates to reflect on the place of the court and all its key stakeholders in relation to the Social Transformation through Access to Justice (STAJ) vision towards developing realistic, contextual & sustainable strategies through which dispensation of justice in this critical area can be substantively improved. She said harmonious industrial relations and a conducive work and business environment are central to our individual and national development.
ELRC Principal Judge Byram Ongaya said the symposium is part of the continuing national conversation about implementation of the Kenya Vision 2030 and the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 adding that it offers an opportunity, in the immediate narrower sense, to reflect upon the role and impact of the Judiciary and in particular the ELRC since its establishment over ten years ago.
The four-day symposium is themed: The Place of Employment of Labour Relations Court in Promoting Social Justice and Economic Prosperity. It will bring together stakeholders of the Court to discuss issues affecting the employment and labour sector.