By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has given notice of commencement of indefinite strike with Monday as commencement date.
Also, for allegedly being adamant to their demands and threats to down tool, Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) are poised to embark on strike over outstanding welfare packages of their members.
The doctors said they were demanding payment of the medical residency training to all its members as approved in the revised 2020 budget.
They are also seeking the provision of genuine group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers; payment of the outstanding April/May and June COVID-19 inducement allowance to all health workers and determination of the revised hazard allowance for all health workers as agreed in previous meetings with relevant stakeholders.
Other demands of NARD are immediate payment of the salary shortfalls of 2014, 2015 and 2016 and payment of all arrears owed our members in federal and states tertiary health institutions, arising from the consequential adjustment of the national minimum wage.
According to a communiqué signed by its President, Dr. Aliyu Sokomba and Publicity Secretary, Dr. Stanley Egbogu. NARD said doctors working under the various tertiary health institutions should be placed on appropriate salary grade level and universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 in all state tertiary health institutions.
NARD said despite the inclusion of the residency funding in the revised 2020 budget the government had not made plans to implement the payment despite several promises by several stakeholders.
While accusing the federal government of failing to procure group life insurance and death in service benefits for all health workers, NEC said that though an agreement had been reached between the government and stakeholders in the health sector to pay COVID-19 inducement allowance for six months (April – September), payment was only commenced for April, May and June in some institution and the process abandoned.
The communique reads “NEC observed the insincerity of the government in determining the revised hazard allowance for all health workers which was supposed to commence in September 2020.
“NEC noted non-payment of the outstanding salary shortfall of 2014, 2015, 2016 under the guise of the so called appeal of the National industrial Court decision that granted the judgement in favor of the payment in the first place by Federal Ministry of health.
“NEC observed the plight of her members in state tertiary hospitals such as the non-domestication and non-implementation of medical residency training Act at the state level, the non-implementation of appropriate salary structure, and the non-payment of owed salaries.
“NEC resolved to proceed on an indefinite nationwide strike action from Monday September 7 2020 by 8:00am until the conditions are met.”
JOHESU and AHPA, comprising six registered trade unions had issued a 15-day ultimatum with effect from August 30, to the government to address their grievances or they would withdraw their services across the country.
But as the countdown to the September 13 deadline begins, the ministry of health was yet to react to threat of the demands of the Unions.
In a letter to the health minister, Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire and copied to Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, the Unions expressed disappointment at the indifferent attitude of government to the plight and welfare of the workers, despite several representations on the matters.
The document which was jointly signed by the President of JOHESU, Comrade Joy Bio Josiah and Comrade Matthew Ajurotu for MHWUN, among others, listed some of the demands which include “Review of the defective implementation of COVID-19 Special Inducement and Hazard Allowance, Payment of all withheld salaries of our members, including the withheld April and May 2018 salaries, Adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014 and Implementation of National Industrial Court of Nigeria (ADR) Consent judgment and other court judgments.”
It also drew the attention of the government to its failure to honour the ‘terms of settlement entered into with JOHESU on 30th September, 2017, especially the upward review of CONHESS salary structure which was to be completed within five weeks from the date of agreement”, describing it as distasteful and condemnable.
Part of the letter to the Minister also read: “You will recall sir, that at the meeting of JOHESU and your good self with the Minister of State for Health, Permanent Secretary and other top functionaries of your Ministry held on Wednesday, 1st July, 2020, your Ministry agreed that a mistake was made by government in the implementation of COVID-l9 Special Inducement and Hazard allowance and consequently promised that the shortfall in the payment of 50% Basic of Consolidated to all those Health Workers was a mistake on the part of government and that the shortfall shall be paid accordingly.
“Up till the time of this letter, the shortfall has not been paid. To make matters worse, when the payment for June 2020 was made, the Government decided to again pay 10% of Consolidated Basic to our members.”
The bodies called con the Federal Ministry of Health to address the contentious issues or face a total lockdown of the country’s health sector.
“All our members in the Federal Tertiary Health Institutions shall embark on a strike action while State and Local Government health institutions are placed on red alert for possible entry into the fray if the Federal Government fails to attend to our demands,” they warned.