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General News of Sunday, 26 September 2021

Source: punchng.com

Striking resident doctors adamant, issues fresh ultimatum on payment

NARD’s  President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa NARD’s President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, on Saturday, issued a 72-hour ultimatum to the Federal Government to pay its members being owed Medical Residency Training Fund and salary arrears.

The association also demanded that the government withdraw the lawsuit filed against doctors before the National Industrial Court in the interest of peace.

The NARD made these demands in a communiqué issued at the end of its 41st Annual General Meeting held in Bauchi State on Saturday.

In the communiqué, jointly signed by NARD’s President, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, and Secretary General, Jerry Isogun, the resident doctors decried the Federal Government’s continued failure to accede to their demands.

In the communiqué, they restated their resolve to continue with the indefinite strike, which began on August 2, 2021 “until our minimum demands are met.”

“The AGM, in particular, demanded that the Federal Government should ensure the following urgently for the purpose of restoring normalcy to the health sector:

“Payment of the Medical Residency Training within 72 hours since the money meant for it is available and verification of the list for payment has been completed.

“Payment of the arrears of salaries of our members on GIFMIS platform within 72 hours while the migration process continues.

“Withdrawal of the case against us in court in the interest of peace and payment of our withheld August and September salaries,” the resident doctors said in the communiqué.

But, the Minister of State for Health, Olorunmimbe Mamora, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH said that the Federal Government would re-invite NARD to the negotiation table.

Mamora said, “The court has given a ruling and they (resident doctors) still insist on not going back to work. That is not a fair situation. Though they have indicated that they want to appeal which is not wrong, but at what cost?

“Engagement is still on and we will still invite them. All we can do is to continue appealing that a strike during this period of a global pandemic and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases is not right.”

However, pro-labour lawyers, under the aegis of International Lawyers Assisting Workers, have said they are not comfortable with the order of the National Industrial Court directing the striking resident doctors to go back to work while the Federal Government had not met their demands for salary arrears payment and improved welfare.

The court had on September 17, ordered the doctors to suspend the indefinite strike and go to dialogue table with government in the interest of Nigerians.

But ILAW, which comprises 670 workers’ rights lawyers from over 70 countries, contended that the court’s decision was against the spirit of the International Labour Law Conventions 87 and 98, “which protect workers’ fundamental rights to freely associate, to organise, to bargain collectively and to strike.”

In a September 24, 2021 letter addressed to Nigeria’s ministers of Health and Labour, Dr Osagie Ehanire and Dr Chris Ngige, respectively, ILAW’s Chairman, Jeff Vogt, said the court should have rather ordered the government to meet the doctors’ demands instead of ordering them back to work.

Vogt said, “The ILAW Network is deeply concerned by the decision of the court to preliminarily suspend the strike, in apparent violation of Nigeria’s national and international legal obligations, and ordering doctors back to work despite the government’s failure to pay the doctors or ensure their safety.

“Indeed, the easiest way to have ended the strike would have been to compel the government to abide by the terms of the agreement. Section 254(C)(1)(j)(i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, vests the National Industrial Court with the power to enforce collective agreements, which provision, had been judicially applied. The ILAW Network urges the government to abide by the terms of MOU and deliver on the promises it has made to these doctors immediately.”

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