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Health workers meet to decide on resuming industrial action
THE Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is holding a meeting on Thursday to decide on whether or not to resume the suspended nationwide industrial action.
JOHESU had embarked on strike action in April 2018 but suspended it six weeks later following an understanding between the union and the of the federal government. The truce, at the time, was brokered by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who pleaded to the health workers to return to work.
However, Ogbonna Chiemela, the union’s national vice chairman, said the government has since abandoned the agreement.
A two-week ultimatum issued by the union for FG to revisit its promises elapses on Thursday and the meeting is for the many unions that make up JOHESU to decide the way forward.
“The meeting will determine the format of the strike and how it should go,” Chiemela, told Premium Times on Thursday.
“We gave 15 days’ ultimatum to the government to call us so we can start negotiations and be on the same page. They have not invited us.
“The law provides that during the period of an ultimatum, it’s the responsibility of the government to invite the aggrieved party to a meeting but they (government) have acted as if the ultimatum was not given them. We heard nothing from the federal ministry of health, the parent body.”
Chiemela said that the government did not pay them for the period they embarked on strike in 2018 even though they had adhered to all labour laws before embarking on the strike. He said perhaps that is the tool government was banking on to call their bluff this time around.
“The government in their usual spirit has kept quiet and maybe they are still relying on their old tactics of no work no pay. That will never deter us from asking them to do the needful,” Chiemela said.
“Two months salaries were not paid then but we are not deterred. We are willing to go on strike again in as much as it is a call for justice and fair play. We are ready to make more sacrifices for what is due us. Besides, that (two months salary) has not gone down the drain. It is one of the things we are asking for in the ultimatum, it is part of our demand.”
The umbrella body, JOHESU, comprises Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria.
Their demands include a harmonised salary structure with that of medical doctors, raising the retirement age for health workers from 60 to 65, payment of salary arrears, among others.