Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Public healthcare workers’ unions and associations in Kaduna State have announced in a communique that about 11,000 of their members would be embarking on a seven-day warning strike to protest the deduction of their salaries, among complaints, by the Kaduna State Government.
The state government through the Special Adviser on Media and Communication to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Muyiwa Adekeye, had in April announced the deduction of 25 per cent of the salaries of state employees as part of the state’s contribution to providing relief to vulnerable households most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown.
That development did not, however, go down well with health workers who have been going to work as essential workers. All efforts to stop the deductions failed.
The workers’ communique, which was signed by Dr Danjuma Sale, Chairman MDCAN BDTH, Dr Emmanuel Joseph, President ARD Kaduna, Mr Ibrahim Abashe, Chairman, National Association of Pharmaceutical Technologists and Pharmacy Technology of Nigeria, Dr Stephen Akau Kache, Chairman NMA Kaduna and 10 other state healthcare workers’ unions and associations leaders, clarified that the strike was not meant to blackmail the state government in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.
The communique reads in part:
‘The meeting was called to assess the response of the Kaduna state government to our earlier communication and notice of a 7- day warning strike to press home our demands.
‘Kaduna State Government deducted 25% of the salaries from about 11000 of her healthcare workers in the midst of COVID 19 (April and May). This action was done in violation of section 5 of the Labour Act.
‘Kaduna State Government paid between 150,000 to 450,000 naira as Occupational Safety incentives to about 300 selected HCWs and non-HCWs working as staff or volunteer in the IDcC and isolation centre or serving in some of the COVID-19 pillars. Less than 2% of the HCWs in the State benefited from the packages.
‘The promised 10% incentives for other HCWs, though inadequate, is yet to be paid.
‘Most HCWs that were infected with COVID-19 are from health facilities outside the IDCC and isolation centres and none of them has been paid the purported N100,000 daily for 10 days
‘None of our members working in hospitals have been contacted to give their details for the widely publicized N5 million and the N2 million life and disability insurance, respectively.
‘All health workers are exposed to varying degrees of risk of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, Lassa fever, Ebola fever among others.
‘There are no adequate PPEs in the State hospitals as evidenced by:
‘a. Patients buying their own gloves
‘b. HCWs getting their own personal facemask and eye goggles among other basic PPEs.
‘We want to make it abundantly clear that our action is not in any way blackmail in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The public health workers added that state doctors were on strike prior to the pandemic but were prevailed upon to call off their actions by the state and national leaders of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
They said: ‘At a time when the case management thematic pillars were having difficulties to get volunteers, the unions came to their rescue by mobilising and fully organising the first training for HCWs to improve the capacity to take care of COVID-19 patients.
‘Up until Thursday, May 21, 2020, the Unions and Associations were opened to negotiations and honoured an invitation for a meeting called by the commissioner for health even at very short notice. However issues raised at the meeting were not considered by the government, rather our members were inundated with a circular signed by the Commissioner for health-threatening no work no pay.
‘This was followed by a press release with a threat from the government to sack any of our members who participate in the strike action.
‘On the basis of the above, we wish to state that a 7- day warning strike has commenced as we earlier notified from 12 noon today Friday 22nd May 2020.
‘The public should take note that we are open to dialogue and should, therefore, prevail on the state government to listen to the voice of reason and do the needful to avert the avoidable crisis in the health sector of the state.’