Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) has put the blame for their strike action on the doorstep of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) for its dominance above others in the health sector.
The Sokoto State chairman of the union, Abubakar Shehu, made the claim in an interview with our correspondent in Sokoto.
He cited a case where the Minister of Health, all Chief Medical Director of hospitals, and even Commissioner of Health at state levels are all medical doctors.
Shehu said his union only clamoured for equity and fairness to all in the health sector, stating that “We are not agitating in taking the doctor’s salaries, but we want our worth to be accorded to us because we are also professionals.”
Shehu, who is also the state chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), claimed that the medical association does not belong to the main labour union body, thus lacks legitimacy to secure a court ruling against JOHESU over the ongoing strike.
He said NMA’s involvement in industrial matters in the health sector was disheartening “because they agitate and negotiate for their welfare, including their take-home pay, but want to deny other workers in the sector their right to advocate for better working conditions and good emoluments, with threats to down tools.”
The NMA threat, according to him, created panic, along with government’s refusal to implement the agreement with JOHESU.
“We resolved that if NMA is so powerful to dictate what happens in the health sector, they should be able to do the work alone, hence, our strike action,” he said.
“The NMA is not a trade union, and they have been negotiating salary, declaring strike, whereas, the labour acts stated that for you to exist as a trade union, you must be an affiliate of the labour congress.
“The National Industrial Court is aware of this, and has been silent on this illegality. Ironically, we (JOHESU), belong to NLC – that is saddled with the responsibility to negotiate on behalf of its member. I now wonder why the National Industrial Court is now directing a legitimate, legalised and recognised affiliate of the labour organisation to suspend our strike and resume back to work within 24 hours.
“What we are doing is right because the Constitution gives room to a trade union to negotiate, bargain, when your rights is breached,” Shehu explained.
Shehu make reference to the NMA’s threat in 2017 to embark on a strike should the federal government implement the agreement entered with JOHESU, including upward review of CONHESS.