Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment

Healthcare: Government declares JOHESU strike illegal, unnecessary

*ILO, WHO statutes and regulations forbid strikes during COVID-19 pandemic as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis”, says Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Labour and Employment Minister

*Our meeting resolved all issues raised by JOHESU against Ministry of Health during last negotiation

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to its earlier directive to members to withdraw their services and embark on a nationwide strike beginning midnight Sunday, September 13, 2020, the Federal Government of Nigeria has described the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) industrial action as “unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal”.

ConsumerConnect reports the Union’s decision was reached after the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union held a meeting Saturday.

The Union in a joint statement titled, ‘Re: Notice of 15-Day Ultimatum/Outcome of JOHESU, by the Joint Health Sector Unions & Assembly of Healthcare Professionals Sunday, had said it gave the Federal Government a week “to address all lingering issues and nothing concrete had been achieved.”

The healthcare workers are asking the Nigerian Government to address what they described as failures and decaying infrastructure in the health sector, and pay the shortfall in COVID-19 hazard allowances for their members.

Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, in a statement Sunday, by Mr. Charles Akpan, Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations, in the ministry, in Abuja, FCT, however, said that the Federal Government had directed the various unions in the health sector operating under the umbrella of JOHESU should not go ahead with the strike.

The Minister urged the leadership of the various unions constituting JOHESU to have a rethink on the illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria above every other consideration.

The issues in the trade dispute between JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health are being discussed, said Dr. Ngige.

According to him, going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He said: “Parties in disputes are expected not to arm-twist, intimidate or foist helplessness on the other party while negotiations are ongoing as per Sections 8 and 18 of Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 2004.

“This bars any strike when the matters are before a Conciliator and undergoing conciliation.

“Any strike now is inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind especially that this is a grave period of a pandemic where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May 2020 hazard allowance.”

The Minister stated that “an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances has also been approved to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.

“Besides, all health workers on essential services -Pharmacists, Nurses/Midwives, Radiographers as members of JOHESU – are statutorily barred from strikes during emergencies, by both the ILO Statutes and the Trade Dispute Act 2004.

“Such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, as it will compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in hospitals across the country.”

COVID-19 pandemic had been declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO), whose Statutes and regulations had forbidden strike for the period, said he.

Ngige said that the withdrawal of services was clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government had demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector.

According to him, the government has addressed most of the demands of the union, including the provision of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), approval of  N29 billion for payments of allowances, besides spending N9.3billion as premium for Group Life Insurance for medical and health workers.

During the last negotiation, the meeting resolved all the issues raised by JOHESU against the Ministry of Health, he stated.

Kindly Share This Story