By Williams Anuku, Abuja
Barring any last minute intervention from the federal government, the Joint Health Sector Unions, (JOHESU), will proceed on strike effective from Sunday September 13, 2020.
Joy Josiah Biobelemoye, Chairman of JOHESU restated the decision on Sunday in Abuja, following an expanded National Executive Council meeting of the Union which held on Saturday.
The latest industrial action may come despite warnings from the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige against embarking on strike to spite the government.
JOHESU in a memo to her members, said, “You would recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, 10” 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, 12” 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.
“Kindly accept the assurances of our high esteem”.
It would be recalled that the Labour Minister, while meeting with Executive members of the National Association of Resident Doctors NARD, criticized them for embarking on strike, despite huge releases to settle their hazard and inducement allowances.
JOHESU which comprises of over forty professional health institutions has been having running battle with the Federal Government over failure to pay 50percent Special Inducement Allowances to frontline health workers involved in the containment of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
Part of the grievances which may necessitate a full blown strike in the health sector is the alleged shortchanging of the union in payment of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance.
Prior to meeting with the Federal Government last week to try to resolve the thorny issues, JOHESU said it is forced to draw attention to the deliberate short-changing of our members in the payment of COVID-19 Inducement Allowances.
“The FMoH ought to redress and supervise the adherence to payment of 40% or 50% COVID-19 Special Inducement Allowances as appropriate to all health workers in Isolation Centres, the FHIs or other related Health facilities without discrimination bordering on clinical or non-clinical status based on our MoU of 21st April, 2020, and as admitted by the Federal Ministry of Health at a meeting of 1st July, 2020, that the payment of 10% was done in error.
“Consequently, FMoH agreed to correct the anomaly and pay the outstanding balance of 40% of Consolidated Basic Salary to all beneficiaries hitherto earning N5,000 as Hazard Allowance.
“The Federal Government did not ensure total and full implementation of the July 1, 2020 agreement between JOHESU and the Federal Government when it disbursed the 3rd tranche of the allowance for June, 2020.
“This has created rumbles and grumbles across our membership and has now created the challenge of assuaging the affected members what have become restive and thus making it impossible to guarantee industrial harmony within the generality of JOHESU members.
“It is rational logic to put on the table that infecting viruses will not decipher who a clinical or non-clinical staff is in the various Health Institutions before striking the would be victims. This is why this variant of discrimination should be embarrassing to the nation.
“It becomes imperative to inform you that if the FG does not meet these demands by midnight of September 13,2020, JOHESU will have no other choice than to commence a nationwide 7-days warning strike of our members in all the Federal health institutions FHIs, the States and LG Health institutions are placed on red alert for possible entry into the fray if the FG foot drags in attending to our demands”.
The Union has alleged that government was not forthcoming in the payment of all withheld salaries of members at JUTH, FMC Owerri, LUTH, including April, & May 2018, salaries as well as
adjustment of CONHESS salary structure.
The health workers union also criticized recent increase in the pump price of fuel and hike in electricity tariff,describing it as ill timed.
“We, in strong terms reject the hike in electricity tariff especially at this crunch period occasioned by COVID, as it clearly amplifies the sufferings of poor Nigerians where our members belong. As a short term solution, we demand urgent fix of our refineries to begin local refining and mitigate the volatility of the petroleum products prices with attendant anti-masses effect.
“We at JOHESU take cognisance of the deregulation of fuel prices by the PPPRA and we condemn it as insensitive to the plight of the people just as the introduction of stamp duties to be paid by tenants in properties to the FIRS remains the climax of absurdity. We therefore request the FIRS to reverse the stamp duty.
“It is worrisome that when other countries are offering palliatives as well as reducing inclination towards social dysfunctions, our leaders appear to be sowing seeds of hardship and bitter pills to bring depression to the doorstep of citizens, “Josiah stressed.