By Ebuka Onyeji and Nike Adebowale
The federal government says it will invoke the ‘no work no pay rule’ rule if the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) persist in their strike, which has crippled health care delivery in parts of the country.
“If this group of health workers persists on continuing this strike, government will be forced to invoke the provisions of the relevant labour laws, especially Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act”, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment said in a statement Wednesday by its Director of Press, Samuel Olowookere.
Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act states that where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or other remuneration for the period of the strike, and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.
The government in the statement expressed surprised that many of the Health Workers Unions operating under the joint group, JOHESU, embarked on another round of nationwide strike despite government’s commitment to the implementation of the agreement reached with it since their last strike of September 20, 2017.
It further said it has met all the demands of the unions on issues such as the payment of promotion arrears and salary shortfalls, among others as per the agreement reached on September 30, 2017.
“The federal government therefore wishes to appeal to JOHESU to reconsider its position in view of the immeasurable consequences of its action on sick patients in hospitals across the nation.”
According to the statement, “while the federal government restates its commitment to the implementation of the Terms of Settlement reached with JOHESU, it shall not however fail in its sacred responsibility of protecting the lives of the numerous patients in all public health institutions where this group of health workers have unjustifiably withdrawn their services.
“Hence the option to apply section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act.”
JOHESU however dismissed the threat by the government.
“No be today we begin hear that kind thing, we are ready for anything. We are not moved”, the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday evening.
“Our stand is that the No work No pay rule is not going to hold water and even if they want to do it let them do it, but we shall not come back to work until our demands are met,” he added.
On the claim by the government that it has met all the demands of the unions, the JOHESU leader said the promotional arrears the government was talking about is not among the major demands of the union on which it struck a deal with the government.
“Promotion arrears is not a serious matter in what we are discussing, the major issue is the adjusted CONHESS salary and it was left undone. That was the basis to which we suspended the strike of 30th September, they have not met that demand. That was the first thing on the agreement form and that is one of the major reasons why we embarked on this strike”, the union leader explained.
JOHESU, the association of other health workers apart from medical doctors and dentists, Tuesday midnight began an indefinite strike over failure of the federal government to meet agreement it had with the union last September.
Chief among what the union is asking of the government is salary adjustments, a demand Nigerian doctors have vehemently opposed, warning the government that acceding to such demand would precipitate a crisis that may lead to the collapse of the health sector of the country.
PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday visited some key hospitals in Abuja to observe the level of compliance to the industrial action.
It was observed that while activities were grounded in some facilities, work continued in others.
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