Health Workers Protest Non-implementation of New Salary Scale

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (JOHESU/AHPA) yesterday  held a protest in Abuja, urging the federal government to pay its members the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure(CONHESS).

The workers, who staged an early morning protest at the Unity Fountain,  called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately approve and implement the Technical Committee Report on the adjustment of  CONHESS.

The unions also tasked the incoming government, National Assembly especially, Senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect to ensure the appointment of seasoned administrators with cognate experience as ministers in charge of the health sector.

The National Vice Chairman of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, while reading a letter addressed to the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawal, said the unions were compelled to embark on the protest rally to draw  the attention of the National Assembly to the unending vicious cycle of tyranny visited on  the respective affiliate of JOHESU in the health sector by the physicians- dominated Federal Ministry of Health.

Ogbonna further explained that the collective Bargaining Agreement between the federal government and the JOHESU established strongly that once there is an adjustment in any of the salary structure, the other structure should be adjusted commensurately.

He said the last three successive physician health ministers in the last 12 years had done nothing to address their grievances in this regard.

According  to Ogbonna, the ministers have deliberately truncated the adjustment of CONHESS on four occasions since January 2, 2014.

He said this alleged social injustice and discriminatory adjustment championed by the Federal Ministry of Health in favour of the physicians and to the great disadvantage of other health workers led to a trade dispute declared by JOHESU  in September, 2021.

“This dispute was, however, apprehended by the Chief Conciliator of the Federation and Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Chris Ngige, at a conciliatory meeting held on 7 September, 2021 at the Conference Room of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment”.

“During the conciliatory meeting attended by the Minster of Health, Dr. Ehanire Osagie, and the then Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora, with other top federal government officials from ministries and inter-ministerial departments and agencies with the national leadership of  JOHESU, the meeting resolved that, all matters in dispute be referred back for negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health.”

“Upon resumption of negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health at a meeting held on 19” September, 2021, the FG and JOHESU team agreed to the setting up of a High Level Inter-Ministerial Committee to determine the justification for the adjustment of CONHESS, work out a detailed financial implication and make appropriate recommendations.

“The committee was chaired by the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), and membership drawn  from Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Budget Office, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and JOHESU.

“The Technical Committee report had since been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council. That the Ministry has refused to do since over a year.”

Speaking further, Ogbonna said the  bane in the spread of benefit packages is domineering as influence of Physicians in the Ministry Departments and Agencies (MDAs); from the Federal Ministry of Health to agencies like National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and others where the Physician-CEOs have skewed privileges as well as other benefit packages in the direction of their Physician brethren.

“In one of the most bizarre development in contemporary times, the Physician dominated Federal Ministry of Health negated the Consultant Cadre status of Pharmacists which has met all components of due process as far back as 2011when the National Council on Establishment (NCE) approved the status. In 2020 and 2021, both the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and Federal Ministry of Health conclusively issued circulars to back up the NCE approval.”

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