…JOHESU strike illegal, says FG
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
HEALTH workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, JOHESU, have withdrawn their services due to Federal Government’s inability to meet their demands.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 review of the defective implementation of COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance; payment of all withheld salaries of JOHESU members, including 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 the Federal Government, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in fulfillment of Trade Dispute Act.
Recall that the leadership of JOHESU had met with Ngige, who is the Conciliator-General for the country on Thursday, September 10, over the threat to embark on strike, if government failed to address their grievances.
But after its expanded National Executive Council, NEC, meeting on Saturday, September 12, the union said 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, September 10, 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 a feed back to the Federal Government within 48 hours.
“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, September 12, 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, September 13, 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, 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 include 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.
JOHESU strike illegal, says FG
Reacting to the strike, yesterday, the Federal Government described it as illegal, directing unions in the health sector operating under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, not to go ahead with it.
A statement by Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said in a statement that going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Sec. 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The statement read: “The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has effectively apprehended the trade dispute as forwarded to him by JOHESU and has brought JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health, their employers, to conciliation since Thursday, September 9, 2020.
‘’Parties in disputes are expected not to arm-twist, intimidate or foist helplessness on the other party while negotiations are ongoing as per Sections 8 and 18 the of Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 2004 barring any strike when the matters are before a Conciliator and undergoing conciliation.
“Any strike now is inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind, especially that this is a grave period of a pandemic where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May 2020 and an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 on Covid-19 hazard and inducement allowances respectively to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.
“Besides, all Health workers on essential services such -Pharmacists, Nurses/Midwives, Radiographers as members of JOHESU are statutorily barred from strikes during emergencies, by both the ILO Statutes and the Trade Dispute Act 2004.
‘’Such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, as it will compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in hospitals across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO) whose Statutes and regulations have forbidden strike for the period.
“This call for withdrawal of services is clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector and has overly shown commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic.
‘’The least expectation hence is that JOHESU should reciprocate the gesture while government works to meet its other demands post COVID-19.
“Recall that the Federal Government has in response tackled emerging health infrastructure issues, apart from the N29 billion in payments of allowances and has also lately expended N9.3billion as premium for Group Life Insurance for Medical and Health workers, as well as for all Civil and Public servants in the treasury funded organisations with 13 major Insurance Companies and Brokers running from March 2020 to March 2021.
‘’A huge sum of N126 Billion was also appropriated in the 2020 Covid-19 Intervention N500 Billion Appropriation and was devoted to the Health Sector apart from the huge sums mentioned above.’’