By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
HEALTH workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, JOHESU, have directed their members to withdraw their services from September 13, by 11.59 am, due to Federal Government inability to meet their demands.
The strike followed the expiration of the 15-day ultimatum by JOHESU to the Federal Government to meet its demands or it would down tools.
The demands of the aggrieved workers include; the review of the defective implementation of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance; the payment of all withheld salaries of JOHESU members, including the withheld April and May 2018 salaries; and the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014.
Others listed in the letter to the Federal Ministry of Health with the reference number HQ/JOHESU/ADM/FMoH/VOL.II/55 are the implementation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (ADR) Consent judgment and other court judgments as well as the call to address the structural and infrastructural decay in the health sector.
Already, the union has written to the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige in fulfilment of Trade Dispute Act.
Recall that the leadership of JOHESU had met with Senator Ngige, who is the Conciliator General for the country on Thursday, September 10, over the threat to embark on strike if the government failed to address their grievances.
But after its expanded National Executive Council, NEC, meeting on Saturday, September 12, the union said that the meeting with government did not address their demands.
The letter to the Minister read: “You would recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on
Thursday, 10th September 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give feedback to the Federal government within 48 hours.
“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, 12” September 2020. And at the end of the meeting, which was held both physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, that the strike notice is still germane and alive.
“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists and with effect from midnight of Sunday, 13th September 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to Federal Government inability to meet their demands.”
The letter was signed by the President of Medical & Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, the union’s Secretary-General, Dr. Silas Adamu, A. A. Adenij, President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, and the General Secretary, A.A. Shettima.
Others were, Dr. A.B. Akintola President, Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes And Associated Institutions, SSAUTHRIAI and Dr.Ezekiel Popoola, General Secretary, Dr. O. Ogbonna, President, Nigerian Union of Alied, Health Professionals, NUAHP, the General Secretary, Martin Egbanubi, Hassan Makolo, National President, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational & Associated Institutions, NASU, and Comrade Peters Adeyemi, General Secretary, NASU,
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, had expressed optimism that JOHESU would suspend the planned strike.
Briefing State House correspondents, the Minister said, “We engaged the Joint Health Sector Unions, they served notice of withdrawal of services on their employer, the Federal Ministry of Health. This Joint Sector union comprises of Nurses and Midwives Association, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria, Radiotherapists Union and Medical and Health Workers Union, everybody in the health sector.
“So, there were five points demand from the ultimatum and we discussed every point there… and gave some assignments. They and NARD had complained that special hazard being paid, that there were some areas of hiccups and roughages, that some of their members were omitted, doctors and health workers and that some didn’t get the right percentage.
“If you remember, we did an MoU and a Memorandum of Action too by which we are giving 50 per cent of their pay as special COVID-19 Allowance for three months of April, May, June.
“They said some of their people were not captured, so have addressed it. Part of the reason why some people didn’t get the money was that we had a budget of N20 billion which got exhausted by the time we were paying April and May and we had another N2 billion left to pay part of June.
“So the President graciously approved another N8.9 billion and this has been applied, the mandate has gone to the Central Bank of Nigeria for disbursement through the IPPIS platform, so we hope that the issue of non payment of June will be a settled matter in a question of days.
“While as we have been able to get NARD to call of their strike, we have not been able to get JOHESU to give us a withdrawal of their ultimatum which is what we need in industrial relations because what they served was what we call trade dispute notice, so they need to cancel that trade dispute notice for their employers, they promised to go back to their executive and reach back to us as government side.
“I am a conciliator actually but I am in government. So, they reach me for transmission to their employers that they have accepted or they have not accepted. But we are optimistic that they will accept because we trashed every issue that was brought on the table.
“We also thank them for the resilience they have shown so far, they are like our soldiers in the health warfront, this is not fighting terrorism but it is also the same kind of fight where you expose yourself to risk. We also clarify for them the issue of group life insurance which the Federal Government paid N9.3 billion to cover all the health workers and even we extended it to all workers in federal ministries and parastatals, they are treasury funded those who are not treasury funded like NNPC, PENCOM, NCAA, etc take care of themselves because they are revenue-generating.
“So they have been aligned now to the appropriate method for putting up their claims through their various institutions and we put a timeline for the Federal Ministry of Health to handle that matter.”