Relief as Health Workers Suspend Nationwide Strike


Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Health workers in the country under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) yesterday suspended their nationwide industrial action, and are set to resume work today.
The decision to suspend their seven-day warning strike was reached at an expanded National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held yesterday.

In a statement issued yesterday evening by JOHESU’s Chairman and President of the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, the union said:” In line with the resolutions at the expanded NEC meeting held on Sunday, September 20, 2020, I hereby declare that the seven-day warning strike is suspended. All our members are directed to resume work by Monday, September 21, 2020, while awaiting further directives.”
Following its deadlocked meeting with the federal government, JOHESU had resolved to proceed with its strike with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020.

This was the decisions reached after its expanded National Executive Council meeting held last Saturday.
JOHESU, had in a three-paragraph letter dated September 12, titled: ‘Re: Notice of 15-day ultimatum/outcome of JOHESU expanded NEC meeting,’ said it would proceed on strike as nothing was achieved in the conciliatory meeting.

The memo sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, was signed by JOHESU President, Biobelemoye Josiah; Secretary-General, Dr. Silas Adamu; President of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Dr. Benjamin Akintola; General Secretary, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Martin Egbanubi, among others.

It read: “Recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, September 10, 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give feedback to the Federal Government within 48 hours.

“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, September 12, 2020. And at the end of the meeting, which was held both physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, that the strike notice is still germane and alive.

“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists and with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to Federal Government’s inability to meet their demands.”
But in a counter directive, the federal government had directed the various unions in the health sector operating under by JOHESU to ignore the strike directive.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment had, in a statement, said it had “apprehended the dispute” with the conciliation initiated last Thursday, which is still ongoing.
The statement issued by the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Mr. Charles Akpan, had said going ahead with the action would be illegal.

“This call for the withdrawal of services is clearly unnecessary as the federal government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector and has overly shown commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic,” the statement said.