El-Rufai Issues Stern Warning to Health Workers Threatening Strike

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Nasir El-Rufai

By John Shiklam

The Kaduna State Government has issued a stern warning to its health workers following threats of strike action over 25 per cent deduction in their salaries

The health workers, had in a communique at the end of their joint meeting on Tuesday issued an ultimatum to the state government demanding the refund of their 25 per cent salary deduction.

They also urged the state government to provide them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), declaring that failure to meet their demand, will leave them with no option than to take all the necessary actions within the labour laws.

But reacting in a sternly worded statement on Thursday evening in Kaduna, the state government said it would not “bend to the blackmail” of the health workers.

The statement signed by Muyiwa Adekeye, spokesman to Governor Nasir el-Rufai, warned that any person who failed to show up at his duty post will be deemed to have forfeited his or her employment.

“Government rejects the strike threat and will regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment.

“Every health worker that is willing to work is required to sign the register at the Ministry of Health and the health institutions to which they are deployed,’’ the statement said.

Adekeye further said ‘’those who are not willing to work are strongly warned against criminal action such as attempts to impede access to workplaces, harass willing workers or to sabotage facilities and equipment.’’

According to him, “declaring strike action amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is naked blackmail, based on the mistaken assumption that the state government will reward irresponsible conduct by some health workers with surrender.’’

He said government would not be misled into granting health workers a special status amongst public servants.

The statement said ’the consequences of concessions made along such lines by previous governments have created a sense that some public servants are more precious than others.’’

According to Adekeye, the salary deductions which were ‘’introduced in April 2020, applied to everyone who works for Kaduna State Government, from the Governor to the most junior civil servant with a take-home pay of more than N50,000 monthly.’’

Adekeye further warned that “government will not be browbeaten by strike action into excluding health workers from the sacrifices being made by other public servants who are donating 25% of their salary to fund the provision of palliatives for low-income, poor and vulnerable persons that are impacted by the lockdown”.

He said the state government frowned at discriminating against any professional group in the public service, adding that the donation to the Covid-19 fund was a show of solidarity which “applies to everyone employed by the government, and therefore does not exclude health workers.”

He disclosed that health workers were already being paid additional amounts as part of an Occupational Safety Initiative.

The statement explained that “High risk staff are receiving a compensation of N15,000 per day. This refers to all cadres of personnel who are in close contact with Covid-19 patients.

“Medium risk staff are receiving N10,000 per day. These are officers involved in taking samples, transferring patients to treatment centres, tracing contacts etc. Low risk staff are receiving N5,000 per day.

“Government is also paying a monthly incentive of 10 per cent of net pay to each and every health worker in its hospitals and primary health centres.

“In addition, the Kaduna State Government has paid premiums for an enhanced insurance package for health workers that raises the death and disability benefits to N5m and N2.5m respectively.

“The insurance package also includes payment of N100,000 per day for 10 days to health workers who get infected with Covid-19.

On the issue of none provision of PPE, Adekeye said ‘’there is a global shortage of PPEs, but amidst these supply-side difficulties the state government consistently tries to keep its secondary health facilities supplied. ‘’