• Medical activities paralysed nationwide
Bimbola Oyesola; Magnus Eze, Abuja; Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan; Clement Adeyi, Osogbo; David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
As the strike embarked by health workers entered its second day today, the Federal Government has appealed to them to be patriotic in their demands.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who made the appeal, yesterday, said government was shocked that many of the health workers unions, under the platform of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), embarked on another round of nationwide strike, despite its commitment to the implementation of an agreement reached with them in September 2017.
He, however, threatened that government will not fail to wield the big stick by invoking the ‘no work, no pay,’ if they fail to return to their duty posts.
A statement from the Press Directorate of the ministry said “at a period the federal government is faithfully managing lean resources to ensure industrial harmony in all sectors, a measure of patriotism is expected of all labour unions to enable government have an equable social and very good labour milieu in which workers could be assured of security of employment.
“It is on record that government has met almost all the demands of these unions on issues such as the payment of promotion arrears, salary shortfalls, among others, as per the agreement reached on September 30, 2017.
“The federal government therefore wishes to appeal to JOHESU to reconsider its position in view of the immeasurable consequences of its action on sick patients in hospitals across the nation.”
Meanwhile, JOHESU said it is expecting 100 percent compliance from today in the ongoing indefinite nationwide strike in the health sector.
This was even as it condemned the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Ministers of Health and Labour and Employment for complicity in the strike.
The strike, which commenced on Tuesday, involved all the five unions in the sector, aside the medical doctors.
The membership include, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), and Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals
Others include Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Non-academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutes.
JOHESU Chairman, who is also president of the Medical and Health Workers Union, Mr Biobebelemoye Josiah, told Daily Sun, yesterday, that the unions tried to relax on compliance on Wednesday, to see if the federal government would reach out to workers to suspend the action.
“Although we know that that is slim, as they could not have done that six months that we have signed the agreement. Before now, we thought government would show love; that they care for Nigerians, but, having realised this, from today, compliance should be 100 percent.”
Biobelemoye listed JOHESU’s demands to include upward adjustment of CONHESS Salary Scale, arrears of skipping of CONHESS 10 and employment of additional health professionals.
Other demands are implementation of court judgments and upward review of retirement age from 60 to 65 years.
According to him, the union suspended its last nationwide strike on Sept. 30, last year, after signing a Memorandum of Terms of Settlement (MOTS), with the federal government.
While the MOTS was supposed to be implemented within five weeks after the date of suspension of the strike.
He lamented that six months after suspension of the nationwide strike, government was yet to do anything tangible over the pending issues.
The union had, on February 5, given a fresh 21-day ultimatum to enable government meet the agreement reached.
The JOHESU chairman stated that the union gave an additional 30 working days, effective from March 5, after the expiration of the earlier 21 days ultimatum.
Regardless, medical activities were paralysed at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, yesterday.
JOHESU downed tools, following a directive from its leadership.
Most offices at the UCH were closed while workers converged on an open field, close to the School of Nursing, within the hospital, from where they moved to the main entrance of the teaching hospital and locked the gates to the edifice.
UCH JOHESU chairman, Mr. Olusegun Sotiloye, who enlightened members of the union on the need for the strike, said the strike would be total; until government accedesto their demands.
Some outpatients of the hospital, who declined to talk, appealed to JOHESU and the federal government to reach a compromise in good time, so that their health would not be jeopardised.
It was the same scenario at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife chapter.
JOHESU President at OAU, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, who declared the strike, told members: “It’s disheartening to note that six months after the suspension of our last strike and still counting, the federal government has not done anything tangible over the pending issues, especially on the flagship issue of CONHESS adjustment and payment of arrears of CONHESS 10 skipping.”
Also, Chief Medical Director of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi, Anambra State, Professor Anthony Igwegbe, appealed to striking workers for skeletal services as over 1,800 members of Joint Heath Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals working at the institution joined their colleagues across Nigeria yesterday in the ongoing strike.
Professor Igwegbe told the striking workers that skeletal services would ameliorate the plight of numerous patients already on admission and those being brought in on a daily basis.