JOHESU Suspends Nationwide Strike

  • Industrial court bars labour, health ministers from negotiations
  • NLC blames Adewole for prolonged strike

Paul Obi in Abuja

The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) Thursday called off its six week nationwide strike to give room for negotiations with the federal government.

The call-off of the nationwide strike came on the heels of the intervention by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the injunction by the National Industrial Court.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja at the end of the union’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, Biobelemoye Josiah alongside the Secretary, Ekpebor Florence, said: “Nigerians and consumers of healthcare services will recall that the JOHESU embarked on a nationwide strike on midnight of April 17, 2018, owing to the failure of federal government through the Federal Ministry of Health to honour agreements wilfully signed with the unions on September, 30 2017, after due notice of 66 cumulative days.

“Following series of meetings (8) with the federal government team under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FMoL&E) and Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) other agencies of Government such as Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), Federal Ministry of Finance (FMoF) National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Department of State Security Services (DSS), and others, we note with dismay the insincerity and unseriousness exhibited at the negotiation table by the government negotiating team which led to the breakdown of further negotiations and unnecessarily prolonged the strike.

“It is on record that it was during the period of late James Ocholi (SAN) who was the chairman of the committee set up by Federal Ministry of Labour that JOHESU demands were sincerely and passionately looked into with a view to permanently resolving it amicably, but the expectation was short lived due to the cold hands of death. We salute his spirit and dedication to service of his father land.”

Josiah stated that “due to the intervention of the Senate President, Saraki, who through his love for the suffering masses displayed high level of statesmanship and sincerity of purpose by putting some machineries in place with a view to permanently resolving the issues in contention. JOHESU, has considered his intervention after holding just two meetings with it leadership, where serious progress were made.

“The various gains from the meetings, with the Senate President were presented to the NEC of JOHESU, after an exhaustive deliberations and discussions, the NEC in session approved that the six weeks old strike be suspended this day May 31, 2018, because of the sympathy the Unions have for the suffering Nigerian masses and also to pave way for further negotiations to continue on June 4, 2018.

“We would like to place on record that JOHESU strike is neither ill nor politically motivated but in a bid to save the health sector from imminent collapse. We appreciate the solidarity, support and guidance of the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, his Deputy and TUC in seeing to the resolution of this crisis as well as National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other well meaning Nigerians for rising up to the occasion while the strike lasted.

“We appreciate our members abundantly for their steadfastness, resoluteness and resilience during this period of trial.

“JOHESU is not unmindful of the various threats, letters and circulars emanating from the Federal Ministry of Health and managements of hospitals across the country. We, however, urge our members to remain peaceful and law abiding in the face of intimidation and report any form of harassment to the national leadership.

“We appreciate Nigerians for their patience and solidarity during the course of the avoidable strike. The Nigerian health sector shall witness a paradigm shift for the benefit of health care consumers.”

On the injunction by the Industrial National Court, Josiah explained that “after the failure of the federal government negotiation team to resolve this impasse, an NGO sought and got an ex-parte court order directing JOHESU to suspend the strike within 24 hours and report back to work.

“Our legal team challenged the ex-parte motion at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and subsequently filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal with a view to quashing the order and taking it away from NICN to the Court of Appeal for adjudication.

“However, at the first hearing where our legal team challenged the jurisdiction of the NICN to entertain the matter filed by the NGO, the presiding judge ruled as follows; court takes over the negotiations between JOHESU and government in its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centre.”

He maintained that the court mandated “JOHESU and government side are to nominate their representatives in the ADR process within 24 hours of the NICN judgment. The Federal Ministry of Health and Federal Ministry of Labour shall nominate officers that have authority to negotiate on its behalf i.e the Minister of Health and Minister of Labour shall not be part of the committee.

“The agreement reached at the ADR centre will be registered in the court as judgment binding on both parties. JOHESU is to initiate the process of allowing normalcy to return to hospitals within three days. Both parties were ordered to maintain status-quo ante bellum while negotiation lasts.”

Also, Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, who spoke with journalists, blamed the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, for prolonging the nationwide strike.

Wabba accused the minister of handling the strike poorly, adding that “he has not handled the issues very well; therefore, I don’t want to discuss his matter. If he has handled it very well, we will not have this quagmire. He is not the minister of only one profession. He is a Minister of Health.

“That is why TUC and NLC have come in. Outside sentiments, the minister must see himself as Minister of the Federal Republic, he is not the minister of only one profession,” Wabba insisted.