Meeting between the Federal Government and the Joint Health Workers Union, which was on strike, came to a standstill.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the minister of health, presided over the negotiation session at the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, the national vice chairman of JOHESU, members of the union went on an indefinite strike on Thursday to make their demands clear.
The Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, the Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, and Associated Institutions, and the Assembly of Healthcare Professionals all fall under the umbrella organization known as JOHESU.
The health workers are demanding the immediate approval and implementation of the Technical Committee report on Consolidated Health Salary Structure adjustment by FG; immediate payment of the omission and shortfall in the COVID-19 hazard/inducement allowances of affected health workers in the federal health institutions and recognition of support health workers in hospital facilities in the payment of new hazard allowance; payment and inculcation of peculiar allowances to health workers under the aegis of JOHESU/AHPA.
The other demands are the immediate and unconditional implementation of the pharmacist consultant cadre, unconditional payment of all withheld salaries of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and April and May 2018 salaries of members at NOFIC, Azare; and the speedy implementation of the increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 years and 70 years for consultants in the health professions.
The leadership of JOHESU had in a letter dated May 9, 2023, issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government over alleged inconsistencies of the government in the ongoing negotiations to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure for health workers on their platforms.
According to Punch, Dr Ogbonna said the FMoH called for the reconciliation meeting on Thursday after the union declared its strike.
“Yesterday (Thursday), when the declaration of the strike was pronounced, we had an urgent meeting with the FMoH at about 1pm, we honoured the invitation but when we got to the meeting, we discovered that all of the people, except those from the National Salaries Incomes And Wages Commission, were all from the FMoH and the Minister who had already taken a position over the matter that it is impossible to be given the adjusted CONHESS was the one who presided over the meeting.
“We had to tell him that he is an interested party in this matter and for the ministry to have allowed us to declare a strike and according to the labour law, there is a trade dispute already and if a trade dispute is declared, the interested party should not be the one to preside over the matter anymore because you cannot be a judge in your own matter.
“He (the Minister) agreed with us and said the matter will be taken over by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, who will be the conciliator between us and the FMoH so that the matter will go unfiltered and dispassionately.”
Ogbonna said the meeting was adjourned till next week, “but no date has been fixed yet due to the mood of the nation and the ongoing inaugural process.”
Meanwhile, the Punch visited the Federal Medical Centre, Abuja, and the National Hospital, Abuja observed that the radiography, x-ray, laboratory, and physiotherapy departments were overwhelmed by patients waiting to be attended to, while some locum staff and interns tried to cushion the effects of the strike.
One of the patients at FMC Jabi, Issac Ibeh, who narrated his ordeal to The Punch on Friday said, “I was here yesterday (Thursday) for an x-ray only to be told there was nobody to attend to me. I had to come back today again and luckily, I heard there were some interns on the ground, but they are not many, so I will wait till I am attended to.”
The Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals at FMC Jabi, Paul Igwe said the union is monitoring compliance of its members to the strike.
“We are feeling the effects of the strike too because it is not deliberate, but the issues have lingered for long, and we want the government needs to listen to our plea.
“We are not happy that the patients are suffering, nobody is happy seeing people suffer, and we love our job, but the needful has to be done. We have been pushing for our demands, but nothing has been done. Our demands are germane, and strike is always the last option for resolving issues,” Igwe said.
It was also gathered that health services were scaled down at the NHA as the doctors, nurses, and other temporary staff could not attend to all the patients.