The Federal Government has described the nationwide strike embarked upon by Joint Health Sector Unions as “unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal.”
The strike kicked off midnight of Sunday, September 13.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, stated government’s position in a statement signed by Mr. Charles Akpan, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry on Sunday.
JOHESU in a letter addressed to the Labour Minister, on Sunday insisted it would go ahead with the planned strike as government failed to meet its demand.
Ngige, however, urged the leadership of the various unions that make up JOHESU to have a rethink on the illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria above every other consideration.
He said that the Federal Government had directed the various unions in the health sector operating under JOHESU not to go ahead with the strike.
The minister noted that issues in the trade dispute between JOHESU and the Ministry of Health were being discussed.
According to him, going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The statement read in part: “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 of the Trade Dispute Act 2004.
“This bars any strike when the matters are before a Conciliator and undergoing conciliation.
“Any strike now is inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind especially that this is a grave period of a pandemic where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May 2020 hazard allowance.
“An additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances has also been approved to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.
“Besides, all health workers on essential services -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.
“Such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, as it will compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in hospitals across the country.”
He noted that COVID-19 pandemic had been declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO), whose Statutes and regulations had forbidden strike for the period, adding that the withdrawal of services was unnecessary as the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector.
According to Ngige, government had addressed most of the demands of the union such as the provision of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), approving N29 billion for payments of allowances and also spending N9.3billion as premium for Group Life Insurance for medical and health workers.
He also said that during the last negotiation, the meeting resolved all the issues raised by JOHESU against the Ministry of Health.
“This is with exception to the issue of CONHESS adjustment which was before the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.
“Same goes for the issue of refund of the two months 2018 April/May salaries caught up in the ‘No Work No Pay’ principle when JOHESU was on a long strike of over two months, which was also a substrata of the strike issue at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria of 2018,” he said.
He said that the union and the Ministry of Health were advised to resolve the issues and report back in four weeks.