Sat. Jan 16th, 2021

Health Workers’ Strike Ill-Timed, Illegal, Govt Insists

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The federal government has declared the strike by the Joint Health
Sector Unions (JOHESU) as illegal and unnecessary.

In a statement issued yesterday by the Federal Ministry of Labour and
Employment and signed by the Deputy Director in charge of Press and
Public Relations, Mr. Charles Akpan, the federal government directed
the various unions in the health sector operating under the umbrella
of JOHESU not to go ahead with the strike scheduled for midnight of
yesterday.

It also urged the Leadership of the various unions making up JOHESU to
have a rethink on this illegal strike by putting the welfare of their
patients and Nigeria first.

The ministry said negotiation with the union was still ongoing.

It said that 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.

It urged JOHESU not to “arm-twist or intimidate the federal government
that has shown a clear commitment to tackling the challenges in the
sector as evidenced by the huge resources it has been pouring into the
sector since the Global COVID-19 pandemic broke out”.

“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has
effectively apprehended the trade dispute as forwarded to him by
JOHESU and has brought JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health,
their employers, to conciliation since Thursday, September 9, 2020.
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 barring 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 and an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 on
COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances respectively to all
categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.

“Besides, all health workers on essential services such -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 as the COVID-19 pandemic has been
declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the
ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO) whose statutes and regulations
have forbidden strike for the period,” it said.

The statement said that the withdrawal of services is clearly
unnecessary as the federal government has demonstrated capacity in her
amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector.

It listed some of the things the government has done include,
provision of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), approving N29
billion for payments of allowances, and also spending N9.3billion as
premium for Group Life Insurance for Medical and Health workers.

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