Tony Akowe

Health workers in the country under the auspices of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) are to shut down all health facilities in the country from midnight following failure of government to respond to their demands.

The workers had issued a 30 day ultimatum for government to met their demand and another 7 day ultimatum which the workers said government has failed to respond to positively.

The unions are demanding the: 

Adjustment of CONHESS salary as done for CONMESS since January 2014Abolition of scale to scale promotionPayment of outstanding arrears of promotion, skipping and relativityAutonomy for Teaching and Specialist Hospitals in the country and other issuesImplementation of all court judgementsreview of retirement age from 60 to 65 years as done for the tertiary education sector.

The workers declared what it called “Operation Alligator Bite“, asking its members across the country to proceed on an indefinite and total strike action from Wednesday, September 20, 2017 if government fails to meet its demand.

Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Unions, Comrade Biobelemoye Joy Josiah told The Nation on phone that the workers have voted unanimously to commence the Industrial action from midnight, pointing out that “by tomorrow morning, all health facilities would have been shut down”.

JOHESU is made up of Medical and Health Workers of Nigeria’ National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutes.

The unions said they have ran out of patience with the government who have refused to address issues affecting their members since 2012, including the implementation of a valid court judgement in their favour.

Josiah had told newsmen at a news conference that the government t appeared not willing to address their demands, pointing out that even after inviting them to a meeting on short notice, the federal Ministry of a Health failed to attend the meeting, leaving them with no option than to declare a total strike at the expiration of an additional seven days with effect from Thursday, September 14, 2017

He said: “We have come to hold this press conference following the snub that we received from the Federal Ministry of Health, even yesterday after we were invited to a meeting. 

“Less than 24 hours after we were given an invitation, we, as people who love Nigerians and considering the importance of health to Nigerians who would want to resolve issues without embarking on strike or going through the hard way responded positively. The meeting was shifted from 2.00pm to 3.00pm, we stayed for the love and health of Nigerians to attend the meeting, but to our greatest dismay, the very Ministry that invited us and has given top priority to other members of the health sector failed to be ready for our meeting.”

While explaining that they are forced by government to declare the strike, he explained that they were not going on strike because other are doing so, but because of the failure of government to address issues concerning their members and open and clear bias being displayed against them. 

“This is not to say that we are not concerned with the plight of millions of Nigerians that may suffer some effect. But Nigerians should also understand that we have been very patient. Nigerians should also help the government to realize that bias is not the answer to giving effective service delivery in this country. 

“We have a situation where one person goes in illegal strike and you grant him amnesty plus all that he demanded for. 

“A situation where where the Ministry will be bias to go to court to seek injunctions to restrain legitimate bodies from embarking on strike, but look the other way when it come to another is highly provocative. It is on that note that we say we have reached a point of no return and we so, we are declaring Operation Alligator bite.

“There is huge and naked discriminatory treatment in the ministry of health and on that strength, we are saying enough is enough. 

“Ask those who know how the Alligator behave will tell you that it is a very patient and peaceful animal. But when it is offended to the point of reacting, especially at night, it bites and when it does, it bite very severely. This time, we have decided to bite and if we are allowed to bite, we will bite and close our eyes. That is why we code name it operation Alligator bite.”

He explained further that: “Knowing the impact of strike on the Nigerian citizens, we are very slow at embarking on strike action. My predecessors shifted strike more than 24 times which is to tell you that we have the history of putting the Nigerian people first in spite of the huge injustice we suffer. 

“That is why we are telling Nigerians that when ever we say we are embarking on an action, believe us that we have gone through series of efforts, several meetings and talks. Since we like doing things in order, we wrote to government giving them 30 days to resolve our issues and that 30 days has expired and nothing has been done. 

“Is 30 days not enough for a Ministry that wants to resolve issues to do so. How many days did it take them to summon the high power d meeting between them and Resident Doctors and NMA. What we are saying is that someone should not be treated with bias. 

“There has been a lot of discriminations and on that strength we are saying that the first place that need restructuring is the federal Ministry of Health. If the Ministry is restructure for better health service, then you will have a healthy Nigeria and a healthy Nigeria will be a prosperous Nigeria.

“We are not going on strike because others have done so. If that were to be so, we should have embarked on strike at the expiration of our ultimatum. But because we are concerned about the impact, we have given further seven days. 

“Nothing stops us from declaring the strike with the treatment we were given yesterday, but we have Nigerians at heart and we are hoping that the federal ministry of health will take a positive position. We are no longer believing anything because we have been deceived  many times. 

“We have always been saying that there  is bias in the ministry and that is why our letters are not attended to swiftly. The Minister is a medical doctor, the minister of state is a medical doctor and until recently, the Permanent Secretary was a medical doctor. To complete the chain, the Minister of Labour is also a medical doctor and so, the bias is very strong. 

“We have been saying that the government should dechain this sets of chains so that we can have some peace. The medical doctors represents about five percent of the man power in the health industry and government has given everything of control in the health system to one group that makes up five percent and others that makes up the 95 percent does not have the right to fair representation.

“This is a Ministry that profess to respect the rule of law, but whenever they push our members to strike, they declare no work, no pay. But today, they have signed an agreement and we appreciate them for abrogating the no work, no pay rule because they have signed an agreement that nobody will be victimized for participating in the strike even as illegal as it is because they are a non registered trade union performing a trade union activity.

While accusing the government of not implementing agreements reached with the union since 2012, Josiah said “On the 10th May, 2012, agreements were reached on issues on issues our members. Issues upon which we could not agree where referred to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria. We were in court till August 2013 when judgement was given in favour of JOHESU on skipping of CONHESS 10. 

“As we speak, the federal government has not paid attrears of the skipping arrears to our members where as the Resident Doctors who were neither a party to the case or are on CONHESS insisted they should skip on CONMESS and arrears paid to them while the originate beneficiaries are not paid.

“The Federal Ministry of Health has been frustrating the implementation of the court judgements by introducing same scale promotion. Instance, when members are promoted from CONHESS 9 to 11, at subsequent promotions, they are promoted from CONHESS 11 to CONHESS 11. This is totally unacceptable. 

“Efforts made through several committees to get the agreements reached implemented were frustrated by the Federal Ministry of Health who is always protecting the interest of Medical Doctors.”

“In 2013, the Alhaji Goni Aji (former Head of Service of the Federation) committee was set up to see to the implementation of agreements reached with JOHESU but the committee could not achieve anything which necessitated the setting up of the high level body headed by the Secretary to the Government of Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim. 

“The committee worked between January and August 2014 and when it was realized that even agreement reached at that level was not implemented. JOHESU went on strike from December 2014 to February 2015 when the then President, Goodluck Jonathan intervened and appealed that because of the 2015 election coming up then, we should give him time to positively look into our demands after the election.

“As a mark of respect for the new administration of Buhari, we waited till early 2016 when the late James Ocholi (SAN) held series of meetings with us till his sudden demise. We gave several ultimatum thereafter and the last the one dated 11the August, 2017 giving 30 days for the government to resolve the issues.

“By a letter dated 11th September 2017 ref. No DHS/821/vol.82 received on 11th September 2017, the Hon.Minister of Health called JOHESU for a meeting for 2.00p  of Tuesday 12 September 2017 in the Minister’s conference room. Despite the short notice, we were there till 3.30 pm and when the Minister of Health was not ready for.

“We are therefore left with no option than to give a final seven days ultimatum with effect from Thursday, 14th September, 2017 and if by the mid night of Wednesday, 20th September, 2017 our demands are not met, all members nationwide are called upon to embark on indefinite total strike action”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *