THE Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU) has suspended its planned strike after the leadership of the union reached an agreement with the Federal Government on Friday.
The union had issued a 15 day-ultimatum to the Federal Government that its members would commence a nationwide strike from midnight Sunday September 13 over allegations that many of its members were either omitted or short-paid, during the implementation of the Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance.
But after a conciliation meeting conveyed by Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment with leaders of the union and other stakeholders to address outstanding issues and avert the strike, an agreement was reached.
Speaking after the meeting which was held on Thursday, Ngige said that ”N126 billion has been appropriated in the 2020 COVID-19 Intervention Appropriation Act for infrastructure upgrading and equipment for the health sector during the period.
But he blamed lack of effective communication on the inability of the union to appreciate the degree of investments made in the health sector by the government.
The Minister who read the resolutions reached at the meeting said it was agreed that “the unions be carried along in the affairs of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ensure proper communication.
On the omission and shortfall in payment of the Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance, Ngige disclosed that the meeting agreed that the Federal Ministry of Health should, by Friday, September, 11, issue a Circular to the Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) to forward the list of affected members to the Health Ministry by Monday, September 14, to facilitate payment.
In addition, JOHESU was asked to mobilise their members in the local chapters to ensure the CMDs comply with the Circular.
Ngige said he would consult with the relevant Ministers on how to address the matter of medical personnel in the education sector not captured in the first tranche of payment, as clinics/hospitals under Federal Ministries of Education, Justice and Defence were equally affected.
On the request by JOHESU that all health workers, non-core medical professionals inclusive, should be beneficiaries of the 50 per cent of their consolidated basic salary as Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement allowance, he said the meeting asked the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to see whether it could accommodate the request within the available funds because certain groups were not in the original classification for that category of benefit.
The meeting noted that the matter of “Adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014” had earlier been referred to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), and therefore advised JOHESU to either withdraw the case from NICN so the Ministry of Labour could resume conciliation on it, or open up discussion with the Federal Ministry of Health later.
On “Withheld April and May, 2018 Salary of JOHESU members”, the meeting stated that the action was taken on the authority of “Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act Cap T8 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004, to deter workers categorised as essential services from embarking on strike.”
The meeting noted that the issue was a substrata of the case before the NICN, and therefore illegal for JOHESU to use it as a basis for embarking on a strike.
The meeting also directed the Federal Ministry of Health to commence the implementation of those issues that were adopted as consent judgement at the NICN, and report back in four weeks, viz: Internship Training; Ascertaining the veracity of JOHESU’s claim of understaffing and irregular employment; Headship of Department.
In view of the understanding reached, the Minister said JOHESU would consult with her members with a view to reporting back on Saturday, September 12, while the meeting was adjourned to October, 15 to enable Federal Ministry of Health carry out its assignments.