Adewole: Why Pay Parity Between Doctors, Other Health Workers is Untenable

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  • Insists no work, no pay policy is automatic, legal JOHESU threatens total shutdown of health sector May 2

    Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The ongoing industrial action by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) may not end anytime soon as the parties involved are not shifting their positions with Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, insisting that there can never be pay parity between the Nigerian doctors and other health workers.

THISDAY findings revealed that the JOHESU’s demand for pay rise and salary adjustment reflects exactly the amount currently earned by the counterparts within the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

A document obtained by THISDAY containing the proposed Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) from level 09 to Level 15 revealed that its at par with the revised Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) from entry-level 01 to the apex level 07.

While the CONMESS level 1:1 for doctors starts with annual salary figure of N1, 316, 488 and peaks at level 7:9 at N7,708, 500, the proposed CONHESS mirrored exactly the same amount with level 9:1 of N1, 316, 488 and peaked at level 15:9 at N7,708, 500.

But Adewole, in an interview with THISDAY on the issue, reminded the protesting health workers that one of the cardinal demands for salary review looks like a quest for parity with the doctors, which according to him, is not attainable anywhere in the world.

He noted that while the federal government is willing to consider the salary adjustment, but that throughout Nigerian history, there has never been a period where the doctors received the same salary as other health workers.

“One thing is clear, we will never support parity, and I think we should put that up-front. There has never been any time in the history of this country when there was parity, and we will never support parity.

“We will be willing to support adjustment, but we will never support parity because, it has never happened before independence, after independence till date, there has never been parity between doctor and non-doctors,” he declared.

Speaking on the ongoing JOHESU strike, the minister said efforts are being made to end the industrial action as ongoing negotiations to resolve the issues are being handled by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).

“The strike would end soon. We are addressing it comprehensively. There are quite a number of funny issues, and we want to make sure that we handle it comprehensively. We don’t want to end the strike only to face another one so we are looking at it comprehensively and in totality,” he stated.

Adewole, while dismissing the allegations of discrimination and acts of intimidation against JOHESU members, cautioned that the policy of “no work, no pay” is legally binding and hence, automatic and beyond him.

According to him, “It is the law of the land, it is not me implementing it, and there is a federal government directive.
“I don’t see us intimidating anybody. That will never happen in our beat, but we need to uphold the ‘rule of law’. In a situation where every worker has the right to go on strike, and you can’t force people who think they want to go on strike, but we also recognised that health is an essential service. Even in labour law, it is there . We can’t really deny that health is on the essential list and our duty is to ensure that we continue to maintain service.”

Speaking on the issue, the National Chairman of JOHESU, Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, informed THISDAY of a total shutdown of the country’s health institutions if their demands are not met at the end of the 14-day ultimatum on May 2, 2018.
Josiah warned that unlike the ongoing warning strike that is limited to the tertiary health institutions, both the secondary and primary healthcare services would be stopped within the next seven days if a compromise was not reached.

He still maintained his position that both the Ministers of Health and Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, are biased towards the doctors under the auspices of NMA and NARD.

He said: “The states and local government areas have not been directed because we have compassion for Nigerians. We only gave the directives to the tertiary health institutions. Hopefully, our demands would be heeded at the end of the 14 days warning strike, after which they will join and we will go on picketing and street protests. We are not deterred.”

THISDAY can confirmed that the resumption of the ongoing industrial action was predicated on alleged foot-dragging of the federal government in approving the adjustment of CONHESS similar to what was done for medical doctors’ CONMESS since January 2014. JOHESU also said this was replicated with yet another approval for the same CONMESS in September, 2017 for the medical doctors