The Federal Government has directed the various unions in the health sector operating under the Joint Health Sector Unions not to go ahead with the strike declared for Sunday midnight by Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
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 as it is in clear breach of the International Labour Organisation Principles and Conventions on Strike and sec. 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
It urged JOHESU not to arm-twist or intimidate the FG “that has shown a clear commitment to tackling the challenges in the sector as evidenced by the huge resources it has been pouring into the sector since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.”
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.
“Any strike now is inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind, especially, that this is a grave period of a pandemic where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May 2020 and an additional N8.9b for June 2020 on COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances, respectively, to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.”
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.
It said such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, noting that the strike would compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in the hospitals across the country.
It added that both the ILO and World Health Organisation’s statutes and regulations have forbidden strike for health workers during the pandemic period.
“This call for the 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 except the issue of Consolidated Health Salary Structure adjustment which the conciliator ( Minister of Labour and Employment and Minister of State, Labour and Employment) advised JOHESU was not a consent judgment of the National Industrial Court flowing from Alternative Dispute Resolution agreement.
The statement, therefore, urged the JOHESU leadership to have a rethink “on this illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria first.”