By Emmanuel Ugwu
Health workers in the employment of Abia State Government yesterday issued a 15-day ultimatum to the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, to attend to their lingering issues of welfare or risk industrial action.
The workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), vowed to shut down all public health institutions if their demands were not met at the end of the ultimatum.
The ultimatum was contained in a letter addressed to the governor through the state head of office, which was adopted at a meeting of the aggrieved workers in Umuahia, the state capital.
Their grievances are centred on non-implementation of consolidated health salary structure (CONHESS) since 2011; backlog of salary arrears in agencies; non-implementation of minimum wage, and slashing of workers’ salaries without due process in the primary health centres (PHCs).
“It bleeds our hearts that healthcare professionals, who are risking their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic were left unpaid, and also, all the due rights and privileges meant for them were not given to them,” the health workers lamented.
The Chairman of Abia State Council of JOHESU, Okoro Ogbonnaya, told his members that the struggle “is about our lives and our future,” hence the need for total commitment to change things for the better.
“Health workers in the state have suffered a lot. We are treated like beggars, but today we are saying enough is enough!” He said.
According to the workers in their petition to Ikpeazu, the state government has engaged in selective implementation of CONHESS as health workers in health management board, local government areas, and ministry of women affairs, were left out.
On the issue of salary arrears, JOHESU said workers in Abia State University Teaching Hospital(ABSUTH), Aba, have not been paid in the last 17 months.
Not only that, the union stated that health workers in the Hospital Management Board (HMB) are owed 14 months arrears of salary while those in the Local Government Primary Health Care are in three months’ salary arrears.
The JOHESU chairman, who was flanked by other members of the new executive council, assured the health workers that their national body was behind them in the struggle.
However, he noted that the ultimatum issued to the government has not in any way foreclosed peaceful resolution of the contentious issues to ensure industrial harmony in the health sector.