HEALTH workers in federal tertiary hospitals in Nigeria have downed tools effective today, Thursday, May 25.
The workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (AHPA), declared the strike at a media briefing by the acting national secretary of JOHESU, M. O. Ajorutu, in Abuja.
The reports that the strike comes four days to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, and the inauguration of President-elect, Bola Tinubu, on May 29.
JOHESU comprises four groups, namely the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).
Demands by the workers include adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), payment of peculiar allowances to health workers under the aegis of JOHESU/AHPA, and immediate and unconditional implementation of the consultant cadre circular for pharmacists in all federal health institutions.
They also demanded the payment of health workers excluded in the payment of new hazard allowances and adjustment of the CONHESS scale as was done with CONMESS, and speedy adjustment of the retirement age of their members from 60 to 65 years and 70 years for consultants.
Other demands are the payment of shortfall arising from the implementation of COVID-19 special inducement allowance, salaries of its members allegedly withheld by the FMC, Owerri, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) for participating in a strike in April and May, 2018 over a ‘discriminatory’ ‘no work, no pay, policy.
The reports that the strike is linked to the Federal Government’s alleged deal with the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which called off its five-day warning strike on Sunday, May 21.
“In a major twist last week and specifically, this same FMoH (Federal Ministry of Health) entered an agreement with NARD to again adjust CONMESS for a record third time since January 2, 2014, and has proceeded to transmit the financial implications to appropriate arms of the Federal Government for payment,” JOHESU said.
JOHESU noted that as part of efforts by the Federal Government to address some of the issues, the government offered N6.5 billion, which its members rejected “because it was grossly below the N22.6 billion prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) as agreed in the 2017 Terms of Settlement.”
But in a subsequent move to meet some of the demands, the government presented two billion naira, about 30 per cent of the amount earlier rejected by the group.
The government provided the fund after the parties appeared before the National Industrial Court over the issues.
The group accused doctors who dominate the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health of blocking moves by President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to meet the demands.
“This particular development confirms that the rings of physicians who preside over the Federal Ministry of Health are clever users of untruth. They have been manipulating events and dropping the name of President Buhari to have their professional interest dominate proceeding in the health sector.
The group said, “For us in JOHESU, it is a matter of the beat goes on, and we are determined to put a halt to this nauseating manipulation of physicians in the FMoH. In tandem with the reality that when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty, we shall insist that justice be served to us as bonafide and free-born citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There shall be no going back on the adjustment of CONHESS because it is now or never.”
In 2021, reported how disagreements between the government, health workers and doctors led to the nation’s public hospitals losing nearly 300 days in eight years.