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General News of Monday, 14 September 2020


Health workers announce nationwide strike

In response to the Federal Government's (FG) inability to meet their demands, health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU), have withdrawn their services.

The strike followed the expiration of the 15-day ultimatum by JOHESU to the FG to meet its demands or it would down tools.

Some of the demands of the aggrieved workers were; review of the defective implementation of the Coronavirus special inducement and hazard allowance, payment of withheld salaries of JOHESU members, among others.

Others listed in the letter to the Federal Ministry of Health, with the reference number HQ/JOHESU/ADM/FMoH/VOL.II/55, are the implementation of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, ADR, Consent judgment and other court judgments as well as the call to address the structural and infrastructural decay in the health sector.

The union had written to the FG, through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in fulfillment of Trade Dispute Act. Recall that the leadership of JOHESU had met with Ngige, who is the Conciliator-General for the country on Thursday, September 10, over the threat to embark on strike, if government failed to address their grievances.

But after its expanded National Executive Council (NEC), meeting on Saturday, September 12, the union said the meeting with government did not address their demands.

Reacting to the strike, yesterday, September 13, 2020, the Federal Government described it as illegal, directing unions in the health sector operating under the umbrella of JOHESU not to go ahead with it.

Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said in a statement that going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Sec. 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, has effectively apprehended the trade dispute as forwarded to him by JOHESU and has brought JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health, their employers, to conciliation since Thursday, September 9, 2020.

"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 (TDA) 2004 barring 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 and an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 on COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances respectively to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.

“Besides, all Health workers on essential services such 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 as the COVID-19 pandemic has been declared as a situation of 'Acute National Health crisis' by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO) whose Statutes and regulations have forbidden strike for the period.

“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 (PPE), and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic.

"The least expectation hence is that JOHESU should reciprocate the gesture while government works to meet its other demands post COVID-19," the statement read.

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