Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, have on Sunday announced that they will be commencing a nationwide strike following an unsatisfactory meeting with the Federal Government.
The union had earlier given the Federal Government a 15 day Ultimatum which ends on the 13th of September, to pay outstanding salaries and COVID-19 Hazard allowances which they claimed is still being owed to their members
The National Chairman of JOHESU, Comrade Biobelemoyo Joy Josiah, disclosed this in a letter addressed to Minster of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, made available to journalists on Sunday.
He said: “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 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, 12th 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.”
JOHESU is a conglomerate of the Medical & Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes And Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHI) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational & Associated Institutions (NASU).
Meanwhile, the Federal Government have responded to the development calling it illegal and unnecessary. The Ministry of Labour and Employment in a statement said it had “apprehended the dispute” with the conciliation initiated last Thursday, which is still ongoing.
A statement on Sunday by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Mr Charles Akpan, said going ahead with the action would be illegal as is in clear breach of the International Labour Organisation Principles and Conventions on Strike and sec. 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The statement was titled, ‘FG declares JOHESU strike is unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal’.
It said, “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 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 N8.9b for June 2020 on COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances, respectively, to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.”