The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) is holding a crucial meeting on Thursday in preparation of a resumption of their suspended nationwide strike.
The union had threatened to resume the industrial action it suspended last May and the meeting was called after the two weeks’ ultimatum it gave the government to resolve “issues in dispute” elapsed today.
“The meeting will determine the format of the strike and how it should go,” Ogbonna Chimela, the national vice chairman of JOHESU said.
JOHESU is a body of all health workers, except doctors. Since 2014, they have been asking the government to increase their pay and improve their members working conditions, among other demands. This has resulted in pockets of strike actions, over the period.
Last year, Nigeria’s health sector suffered one of its biggest blow when JOHESU members downed tools on April 17 over similar demands.
The strike, which lasted six weeks, caused many deaths and left millions without care. Patients passed through untold pain and their relatives grumbled as both federal, state and local government health institutions were brought to their knees.
The strike was however suspended on May 31.
Mr Chimela said the government is yet to call them for a continuation of negotiations, despite the two weeks strike notice given.
“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,” he Mr Chimela said.
No Work No Pay
According to Mr Chimela, health workers remain undeterred by the no work no pay rule.
“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.”
The federal government invoked the ‘no work no pay rule’ rule on health workers during their suspended six weeks’ strike last year.
Upon resumption, the government did not pay them for the period they were on strike (two months).
Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act states that where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or other remuneration for the period of the strike, and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.
“That particular rule was erroneously implemented on us because we followed all the due process before the strike action”, the JOHESU official noted.
“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 minister of health, Isaac Adewole, could not be reached on phone, for inquiries on the matter.
Samuel Olowookere, director of the press, ministry of labor and employment, did not respond to calls or return text messages seeking government’s reaction on the development, as at press time.