Health Workers Allege Bias in Payment of Hazard Allowance

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has alleged unfair treatment in the implementation of the newly approved inducement and hazard allowances for medical workers.

They urged the federal government to implement the COVDI-19 hazard allowances agreement for all medical workers without giving preferential treatment to medical doctors while leaving out other workers.

The protest by health workers union came just as the federal government summoned the leadership of the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to a meeting to seek ways of resolving issues that led to the latest strike action by the doctors.

The meeting with the doctors which is continuing late night yesterday was being chaired by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige with the Minister of Heath, Dr. Osagie Ehanire in attendance.

Both parties met in a technical sessions for three hours before adjourning for further talks later at night.

JOHESU in a protest letter addressed to Ngige and dated June 15, 2020, described the recent release of N4billion for the NARD as unfair.

In the letter jointly signed by the Chairman and acting Secretary of the union, Biobelemoye Josiah and Matthew Ajorutu, the health workers said that the usual plea by the government for understanding due to paucity of funds can no longer be accepted by the members.

JOHESU also alleged that some of the affiliate unions, like the National Abovirus Vector and Research Centres (NACRC), Enugu; National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, Plateau State; National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Training Centres in Saye, Zaria; NOFIC, Katsina, and health clinics in universities were not captured for payment of the special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance.

In the protest letter, the union urged the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha and Minister of Health to immediately implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated April 21, 2020 and the Memorandum of Action reached with government last week.

In the letter dated June 11, 2020 with Reference number, DFA/BD/PB 2021/1/14, the union drew the minister’s attention to the fact that the circular for the implementation of the hazard allowance “is at variance and in total negation to the Memorandum of Understanding dated Tuesday, April 21, 2020 and Memorandum of Action agreed to by stakeholders in the Health Sector on Monday, June 8, 2020”.

“We are constrained to inform you that JOHESU can no longer wait till after the COVID-19 pandemic before the withheld salaries and adjustment of CONHESS that has lingered since 2014 could be paid.

“Our constrain is borne out of the approval of N4bilIion for the payment of 2017 allowances to NARD while JOHESU members’ genuine demand for upward adjustment of CONHESS and payment of withheld salaries were not given considerable ears under the premise of lack of money is no longer sellable to our members,” it said.

Other complaints by JUHESU include: non provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)) to members on the frontline, non-adjustment of CONHESS salary since 2014, non-recognition of their members as consultants and payment of Specialist Allowance, non-implementation of various court judgments.

The union further complained of the non- implementation of 2017 collectively bargained agreement, non-payment of uniform allowance to some of their members and non-promotion of their members to CONHESS 15 as director.

The union listed what it said was agreed in the memorandum of agreement in April, to include payment of special covid-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50 per cent of the Consolidated Basic Salary to all health workers in federal government Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres and her designated COVID-19 Centres and Primary Healthcare Centres to last for the first three months in the first instance.

Under the MoU, the federal government agreed to shelve the payment of the existing Hazard Allowance of 5,000.00 being paid across board to health workers in place of the new allowance.

Government is to also pay 40 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary as Special covid-19 hazard and Inducement allowance to healthcare workers at Special non-Public Hospitals and Clinics in the Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for same three months period.

Another 20 per cent of the Consolidated Basic Salary will be paid as special risk allowance additionally on the special covid-19 hazard and inducement allowance to all health workers directly managing COVIb19 at the Infectious Diseases Hospitals, Isolation and Treatment Centres.

The MoU also stated that 10 per cent of Consolidated Basic Salary would be paid to non-core medical professionals working in health sector and operating at aforementioned hospitals/clinics as Special Allowance for the COVID-19 period – three months first instance.