Health Workers Begin Strike Nationwide Today

The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has resolved to proceed with its strike with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, following its deadlocked meeting with the Federal Government.

This was the decisions reached after its expanded National Executive Council meeting held on Saturday.

This was just as the Federal Government on Sunday directed the various unions in the health sector operating under by JOHESU to ignore the strike directive.

JOHESU, in a three-paragraph letter dated September 12, titled, ‘Re: Notice of 15-day ultimatum/outcome of JOHESU expanded NEC meeting,’ said it would proceed on strike as nothing was achieved in the conciliatory meeting.

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The memo sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was signed by JOHESU President, Biobelemoye Josiah; Secretary-General, Dr. Silas Adamu; President of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Dr Benjamin Akintola; General Secretary, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Martin Egbanubi, among others.

It read, “Recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, September 10, 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give feedback to the Federal Government within 48 hours.

“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, September 12, 2020. And at the end of the meeting, which was held both physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, that the strike notice is still germane and alive.

“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists and with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to the Federal Government’s inability to meet their demands.”

Your strike illegal – FG

However, the Federal Government urged unions JOHESU to ignore the directive.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment in a statement said it had “apprehended the dispute” with the conciliation initiated last Thursday, which is still ongoing.

A statement on Sunday by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Mr Charles Akpan, said going ahead with the action would be illegal.

The statement was titled, ‘FG declares JOHESU strike is unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal.’

It said, “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 the of Trade Dispute Act 2004 barring any strike when the matters are before a conciliator and undergoing conciliation.”

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Besides, the government said all health workers on essential services such as 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.

“This call for a withdrawal of services is clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector and has overly shown a commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic,” the statement noted.

The FG further added that it had addressed most of the unions’ demands.

The statement urged the JOHESU leadership to have a rethink “on this illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria first.

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