From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Federal Government and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) would continue their negotiation on the proposed new hazard allowance for doctors working in government-owned hospitals next week.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, disclosed this Tuesday night after a protracted meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries with the leadership of NMA and its affiliates on the review of the hazard allowance in the health sector.
Ngige, while calling the strike embarked by resident doctors as insensitive, recalled that they started the discussion with all the health workers in March but along the line, NMA disagreed on fundamental principles of negotiation with the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
He explained that president of NMA requested that the discussion should be compartmentalised, which is allowed in Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
According to the minister, when people who are not doing the same work are negotiating an interest, if they decide to be separated, it can be done abinitio or midway but that would put a lot of load on the negotiator.
He, however, appealed to the NMA and JOHESU to sheath their swords to enable the conclusion of discussion on the matter before the end of September.
“If we do so, it is to your own advantage because it has to be captured in the 2022 budget. Government will also look at its purse and if there is money, the President will sign and it will be a win-win situation for all of us.
“Last week, we discussed it with JOHESU. We had a fruitful discussion. It is in that spirit that I am asking you that this should be fruitful so that we can rest the issue of paying N5,000 hazard allowance. In 2020, it was not you who informed the government. It was by our own volition that we invited both sides to the meeting where we handed over special COVID-19 allowances to medical and dental workers and other allied health workers and we did it seamlessly. I don’t know whether it was because of the fear of COVID-19 that you worked together.
“Today, the divide is there. Having read the altercation between you and JOHESU, which is in the media, we can’t believe that both of you are managing one patient. We are appealing to you, let us unite and see how we can navigate this thing. This is COVID-19 period. Stop this dichotomy between you and JOHESU. Both of you are managing one patient. It is team work. Nobody can do it alone.”
On the prolonged strike of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Ngige called out striking resident doctors, saying they were insensitive to the plight of Nigerians by embarking on strike at the middle of a pandemic.
He maintained that the Federal Government has been religiously implementing its own part of the Memorandum of understanding (MoU) it signed with the NMA, but rather than do their own part, the doctors have chosen to make government the whipping dog.
While pointing out that he had remained neutral as the conciliator, the minister said he would no longer allow the idea of unions whipping government every time they come for negotiation, even when government was trying its best and the other side liable for not doing their own part. He explained that timeframes were fixed for actions to be taken, with those who are to take the actions spelt out.