Deborah Tolu-Kolawole and Daud Olatunji
16 August 2021
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Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire
Health workers, under the auspices of the Joint Health Sector Union, on Sunday, said the option of going on strike could not be ruled out if the Federal Government failed to meet its pending demands.
The union said this as the industrial action by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors entered its third week.
NARD, on August 2 commenced a nationwide strike to protest what it described as maltreatment of its members.
Its demands include the payment of death benefits to the families of 19 of its members who lost their lives during the fight against COVID-19 and movement of its members from the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System platform to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
On Sunday, JOHESU threatened that its members would go on strike. Also, one of its affiliates, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, warned the Federal Government not to pay resident doctors, hazard allowances higher than those of its members.
Besides NANNM, other unions in JOHESU are the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Medical and Health Workers’ Union, the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions as well as the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria
A senior executive member and spokesman for JOHESU, Olumide Akintayo, in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, accused the Federal Government of trying to plunge the country into fresh health crises.
The union, in September 2020, had gone on a strike which was later suspended.
FG yet to pay our members COVID-19 allowances, says JOHESU
Akintayo said, “There are lots of outstanding issues with the government. We have a pending five-point agenda. We are dealing with the non-adjustment of the CONHESS salary structure, implementation of several court judgments. Some members are also being owed salaries and as you know the country is still battling with COVID-19 and lots of our members have not been paid COVID-19 allowances.
“We have demanded that government pay our members and up till now, they are still being owed. We also talked about the adjustment of retirement age which is something that cuts across the health sector. The government’s refusal to meet these demands is causing fresh crises in the sector.
“Strike is an option certainly; we are responsible and we are sensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians, but strike is an option.
“We will continue to hope that the government reciprocates our mature gestures. Their actions will decide our reactions, but strike is an option.”
Don’t offend us while struggling to satisfy resident doctors, nurses warn FG
On its part, NANNM warned the Federal Government against pushing it to the wall while satisfying the demands of NARD.
The NANNM said it was not contemplating embarking on any strike but urged the government to consider its members, while struggling to satisfy striking members of NARD.
The president of NANNM, Michael Nnatchi, said this on Sunday while speaking to one of our correspondents on the association’s demand on hazard allowances.
Nnatchi said the issue of hazard allowances had been politicized, claiming that the nurses deserved the highest pay in the health sector because of the highest exposure to hazards.
He stated, “This issue of hazard has been politicised. What I mean by this is that the nurses are highly exposed to hazards. Is it exposure to diseases? Is it kidnapping? which is almost every day, every week.
“For now, they (resident doctors) are on strike. I know truly we have been discussing it (hazard allowance) through the office of the honourable minister who honesty has been working very hard. He has a high level of concern on that issue.
“If not that NARD went on strike, probably, by now all these issues would have been completed. That strike is more or less distracting both dialogues and negotiations.
“I will tell you, we have not threatened any strike, but the truth is that we are expecting to be paid the highest hazard allowance in the sector. So, if the NARD or doctors are asking for the highest pay, we are also asking for higher consideration; 80 per cent of our consolidated basic will not be bad. What we are passing through is much.
“If any special treatment is given to NARD and nothing is considered for us, I pray that they (government) don’t push us to go on strike because if nurses are on strike for one day, you and I know the implication.”
Everybody deserves better pay, nurses are more valued abroad – NARD president
The President of NARD,, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in his reaction, told The PUNCH that every medical practitioner, including nurses, deserved a better way.
He said, “When you go to the hospital, you don’t ask to see them (nurses) because they are there.
Everyone deserves a better pay. They are more valued abroad. This is an issue of mutual respect. We all deserve better pay but nurses are more valued abroad.”
Meanwhile, efforts made so far to end NARD strike, including the intervention of the House of Representatives Committee on Health, have not yielded results.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has since dragged the association before the Industrial Court based on what he described as failure of the two parties, the Federal Government and NARD, to reach settlements.
The two parties are expected to appear before the court today.
The President of NARD on Sunday confirmed to one of our correspondents that the association had met with its lawyers and will be honouring the court notice on Monday (today).
Okhuaihesuyi said, “We have consulted with our lawyers and we will be going to court tomorrow (Monday). We are not afraid, we expected this.
“The Federal Government has at no point honoured our demands; the health sector is in shambles.
“We have told our members not to be scared. We are going to court and until they meet our demands, whatever decision is taken in court holds no water.”
Similarly, the General Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Philips Ekpe, in an interview with The PUNCH, faulted the Federal Government’s decision to take resident doctors to court.