The Federal Government has condemned the planned nationwide strike of the the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement on Sunday, National Leader of the unions, Biobelemoye Josiah, asked JOHESU members to withdraw medical services from Monday.
The declaration followed its deadlocked meeting with the Federal Government on Friday.
They said they were going ahead with the strike because the government had refused to meet their demands.
“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held 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,” JOHESU, the umbrella body for health workers in Nigeria said.
“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’s inability to meet their demands.”
Reacting to the health workers’ decision, the Ministry of Labour and Employment said it had “apprehended the dispute” with the conciliation initiated last Thursday, which is still ongoing.
In a statement issued by Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Charles Akpan, on Sunday, the ministry said going ahead with the action would be illegal, unnecessary, and ill-timed.
“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,” it said.
Also, the government noted that all health workers on essential services such as pharmacists, nurses/midwives, radiographers as members of JOHESU are statutorily barred from strikes during emergencies, by both the ILO Statutes and the Trade Dispute Act 2004.
“This call for withdrawal of services is clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector and has overly shown commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic,” the statement said.
The Federal Government added that it had addressed most of the unions’ demands while urging the JOHESU leadership to have a rethink “on this illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria first.”
The unions are demanding a review of the COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance as well as the payment of all withheld salaries of their members, including the withheld April and May 2018 salaries.
Other demands are the adjustment of consolidated health salary structure, implementation of National Industrial Court of Nigeria consent judgment and other court judgments, and an improvement in the structural and infrastructural decay in the health sector.
Recall that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) recently suspended its nationwide strike.