Health workers’ strike: No retreat, no surrender – Scribe

Members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), who embarked on a nationwide indefinite strike yesterday, have vowed not back down until their demands are met. The General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Obisesan Oluwatuyi, who disclosed this in an interview yesterday in Abuja, said “the soldiers have been let loose, no retreat, no surrender until government does the needful.” Also, the President of the union, Josiah Biobelemoye, who issued the strike notice, attributed the industrial action as the “insensitivity and lackadaisical attitude of drivers of the health sector.”

He directed all JOHESU members in federal health institutions across the country to commence the strike at midnight of April 17. Biobelemoye listed their demands to include, upward adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) Salary Scale arrears of skipping of CONHESS 10 and employment of additional health professionals. Other demands are implementation of court judgments and upward review of retirement age from 60 to 65 years. Biobelemoye added that the union suspended its last nationwide strike on September 30, 2017, after signing a Memorandum of Terms of Settlement (MOTS), with the federal government.

According to him, the MOTS was supposed to be implemented within five weeks after the date of suspension of the strike. He, however, noted that six months after the suspension of the nationwide strike, the government was yet to do anything tangible over the pending issues. According to him, the union had on February 5 given a fresh 21 days ultimatum to enable government meet the agreement reached.

The JOHESU president stated that the union gave an additional 30 working days effective from March 5, after the expiration of the earlier 21 days ultimatum. Biobelemoye emphasised that the 45 days was given simply because the union had the interest of the masses at heart.

He said: “It is disheartening to note that after six months of suspension of our last strike and still counting, the Federal Government has not done anything tangible over pending issues, especially on the flagship issue of CONHESS adjustment and payment of arrears of CONHESS 10 skipping. “JOHESU as a mature and responsible organisation gave 21 days notice on Feb. 5, this year, in the first instance to enable the Federal Government to do the needful. “At the expiration of the 21 days notice, the leadership of JOHESU reconvened to reappraise the situation on ground and noted the lackadaisical attitude of the government toward the implementation of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement signed on Sept. 30. “On April 5, 2018, the Minister of Labour and Employment invited the leadership of JOHESU for a meeting wherein we were told that our issues were still being looked into.

This shows that government is taking JOHESU for a ride.” He urged members at the states and local government health institutions on continuous sensitisation and mobilisation for possible solidarity strike, if government failed to attend to their demands. He also called on well-meaning Nigerians including traditional leaders, elder statesmen, opinion leaders and the general public to prevail on government to implement MOTS entered into with JOHESU on Sept. 30, 2017.

The president further added that JOHESU members were not clamouring for equality with doctors but equity and justice, and charged medical doctors and the Federal Ministry of Health to change their perception of the demands. JOHESU draws its membership from the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Medical and Health Workers Union (MHWUN), and Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals. Others include Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals and Non-academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated  Institutes.

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