We require neutral persons to resolve JOHESU, FG face-off — Wabba

NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba speaks on the lingering crisis in the health sector, and concludes that a neutral body will be required to end the faceoff between the federal government and the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU).
MOSES JOHN brings the details.
Health workers strike First, this situation is getting out of hand because it has taken longer than necessary.
Two, the needful has not been done, because issues of industrial relations like this require prompt and adequate attention, particularly, that those issues are issues related to a Collective Bargaining Agreement that was fully signed and also pronouncement of the Industrial Court.
I am aware that those issues have taken more than three years now.
We have several agreements that have been signed, several MoUs that have been signed towards addressing the issues, but every time, those agreements have not been consummated.
That is why the issues have lingered for a very long time.
I am also aware that the issue of cadre interests have actually come in, and that is why the issues have been prolonged.
We are talking here of all other health professionals, nurses, pharmacists and others.
These will not augur well for our health system.
Health system can only work if it works as a team, because every health worker in the team has a role and responsibility.
Working harmoniously It is only when they work harmoniously that they would be able to deliver on their mandate.
Even, the person that is cleaning the hospital has a responsibility that is very central because it is a place where you need the highest provision of hygiene for the patient to receive the best of treatment, same with a nurse.
A surgeon can do the best of surgery, if there is no quality nursing care that would be able to ensure that it heals, it would be in jeopardy.
So, everybody is as important as the other.
It is just like a football team, where you have a goalkeeper, the defenders, midfi elders and the strikers.
You can’t say it is only the goalkeeper that is important or the strikers.
No, everybody is important and it is when the team worked harmoniously that they would be able to win a game.
The defender is important because if you don’t take care of him and you concede too many goals, if you have the best of striker it means the team will not work optimally.
This is the same with the health system.
The health system must work as a team and in that team, everybody is very important.
In fact what is happening now is long expected.
When they increased the salary of doctors two times and left the other health professionals, you should know that this issue will come up.
Therefore, managing it for the past two or three years has not taken us to the final destination and therefore, it is still a challenge.
Whatever the issue, whether court, whether sack, it may not address the issue.
Addressing the quagmire What will address the issue is for government to create a neutral platform; bring technocrats, lawyers and others that will look at the entire quagmire and give a pronouncement that will be fair and be in line with best global practice, and that everybody will conform to that.
That would be the best situation.
But allowing the minister or somebody that has an interest, because the minister of healthis a physician, so, he has a vested interest in it.
If they are on the path of making decision, that would also mean that there would be interests.
So, my recommendation on best way to address this issue is to get somebody that is neutral.
You remember during the last administration when the issue was getting out of hand, they brought in the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to actually lead the discussion, and that was how he was able to know the truth and said, ‘no the Ministry of Health shouldn’t have gone this way, and the unions wouldn’t have gone this way, let us look at it this way.’ That was how the last agreement was signed; because it was also the same mistake that was made.
They increased CONMESS salary structure and left out health professionals as far back as 2009, and that was what brought about the issue.
That was how JOHESU was formed, and because they were left out they have to agitate.
In fact, it was a long process of negotiations which led to the signing of 2009 agreement which addressed the issue.
But now, an increase has been made in a sector where there is a team work and you have not been able to accommodate the other party.
Again, saying that they are demanding for the same salary structure as the medical doctors is not correct, and the impression has to be made very clear.
There is no way other professional is going to be paid the same salary.
Parity issue There used to be issue of parity; even at the point of entry, they don’t enter the service at the same level.
Other health professionals enter the service at nine and 10, physicians or doctors enter the service at 12.
So, already at the point of entry, there is the issue of parity created.
Clearly speaking, that is a deviation from the real issue.
The real issue is that there is a problem, and from the discussion that I have had, nobody has said there is no issue, either government or the Ministry of Health or even the health workers.
Everybody agreed that there is a problem and that discussion is going on and that government has made an offer while the unions had made a counter offer.
If there is no issue, what will bring about the issue of offer? So, that is the reality, going any other direction rather than tested process of collective bargaining which is enshrined in ILO Convention 87 and 98 and in our Labour Law, will not bring about peace, stability and progress in the health sector.
If everybody is happy, the health sector will work optimally.
Administrators managing hospitals What has happened is clearly about management process.
Let me give you an example from African perspective.
Recently, Kenya was in the same quagmire and the government had to take drastic decision.
The first decision is that technocrats diagnostic will have to manage the administrative aspect of hospital.
Kenya did that, they addressed the issue and the issue died naturally.
They said the issue of clinical service and professional service is different, and the issue of management and administration is different.
The issue of core administration should be handled by competent administrators who are versed in administration.
That is what Kenya did and brought about peace.
This issue of muddling up administration and clinical issues have created more problem than good.
We must also look at global best practice.
What is the situation in other countries? Ghana operates what we call single spine salary structure where every professional comes in, you fi t in according to your grade level and that has addressed the issue.
Same in countries like US and UK where we have actually gotten our independence.
Whereas in Nigeria, where they say if you obtain the highest level of qualifi cation as a nurse or a pharmacist, even with Ph.d, because we have professors now in Nursing care, we have Ph.d and professor in pharmacy and they are so appointed as consultants; but someone woke up one day and says that word consultant can only be used by a clinician.
That is an aberration and not in line with the best global practice because in UK, we have nurses that have acquired the relevant qualifi cations, they are called consultant in nursing services, we have consultant in pharmaceutical services.
Today, Lagos State appointed consultant in pharmaceutical services.
In their scheme of services, they created a grade known as consultant pharmacist.
Once you acquire the qualifi cation and standard, you must be so appointed.
Issue of skipping We have the issue of double standard.
If we are strictly going by issue of rule of law, we must apply rule of law.
Take for instance the issue of skipping.
The issue of skipping applies only to other health professionals, but five years back, someone woke up and said the issue of skipping which is a service wide issue, should be stopped for other health professionals.
That issue was tested in the court of law and the court says no, just as you skip from 10 to 12 in the core civil service, these workers in the other professions should be allowed to skip.
That was accepted, but instead of applying that strictly to those that it applies to, they extended it.
And I am aware that salaries and wages commission issued a circular to say that the issue of skipping is only limited to this cadre, but you can see illegality and double standard.
They extended it and that is also part of the problem today.
What government should do Our recommendation is to bring neutral people, competent lawyers, competent administrators, people who are neutral.
Let us present the facts before them, let them look at it in comparison with what obtains in the other sphere, and then try to give a direction that government will conform with.
The issue of using your position of authority to try to undermine due process or give false information will not assist because I have seen in the media where some of those confi dential information have to be provided because somebody lied that there is no agreement.

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