The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has disclosed that the Federal Government substantially met the demands of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), faulting the rejection of the Memorandum of Action signed on Wednesday March 31, by the President of NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi.
The minister who spoke to reporters yesterday explained that some of the demands by NARD were made in error as some of the issues were already conciliated and implemented 100 per cent.
He, however, stated that the outstanding issues, which came up at the last conciliation, were on timeline along a month lifespan of implementation, revealing that “they are still work in progress.
“But some of the issues such as the abolition of the ‘Bench fees’ by Residents and their Health Institutions payable to sister Hospitals were immediately abolished on the negating table.”
He noted that “NARD made some of the demands in ignorance. They didn’t have the full picture.”
Senator Ngige faulted the unilateral repudiation of the Memorandum of Action by NARD’s president, describing it as unknown in labour negotiation.
“He didn’t participate in most of the discussions last Wednesday because he fell ill not quite after the meeting started and had to excuse himself. He handed over to his deputy, the secretary general and other officers of the association, who fully participated. We spent seven hours and by the time we put our signatures to the papers, it was eight hours.
“Disowning the MOA duly negotiated is unknown to labour, the two parties to the negotiation signed the MOA. Four officers from government and three from NARD signed the document and the president who was not at the meeting, but fully represented by deputies went to NARD’s NEC and disowned the paper because they were signed by his deputy and secretary general,” he said.
The minister averred that ab initio, it was wrong for NARD to impose a fait accompli on the Federal Government while negotiation was ongoing.
“When a trade dispute has been apprehended, no party imposes on the other, a fait accompli. We signed a memorandum that says NARD will go back to its members to educate them on what has been agreed, the timelines placed on them, with a view not to disturb the industrial milieu in the health sector. And we agreed to reconvene after four weeks,” he explained.
Ngige expressed disappointment that NARD made a detour and mobilized members into action during Easter, when Christians are observing the holiest week in their universal calendar.
He dismissed as untrue allegation that doctors in the public health institutions across the country, were not insured, pointing out that the Federal Government spent N13.3 billion in 2020, on Group Life Insurance not just for doctors and health workers alone, but also for all workers in the federal civil and public service.
“This N9.3b was paid to 13 insurance companies and brokerage firms to administer. And this is not the first time that NARD and teaching hospitals have been told to send in names and make claims for members who have lost their lives.
“It is an insurance that runs for one year, from April 10, 2020 to April 9, 2021 and even at that, the new payment is now being processed , so that it becomes a continuous thing,” he explained.
The minister added that NARD was again reminded of the development while signing a Memorandum of Action on Wednesday, March 31, to put up claims through the Ministry of Health to the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation as it was the only basis for payment of premium to the beneficiaries.
He noted that the procedure was for all health workers, civil servants and public servants in the Federal Government employ, adding that the Federal Government fast-tracked the insurance cover last year in anticipation of casualties attendant upon COVID-19 outbreak.