With no consensus reached at the meeting with the Federal Government, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) has gone ahead with its threatened strike which commenced with immediacy from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020.
The decision was reached on Saturday at the expanded National Executive Council meeting. Meanwhile the Federal Government had on Sunday issued a directive to the various unions in the health sector operating under by JOHESU not to engage in the industrial action.
In its three-paragraphed letter dated September 12, titled, ‘Re: Notice of 15-day ultimatum/outcome of JOHESU expanded NEC meeting, it was stipulated therein that the body would proceed on the industrial action since nothing was achieved during the conciliatory meeting.
The memo sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was signed by JOHESU President, Biobelemoye Josiah; Secretary-General, Dr Silas Adamu; President of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Dr Benjamin Akintola; General Secretary, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Martin Egbanubi, among others.
On the contrary, the Federal Government responding to this action stated that the strike was unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal; as contained in the statement issued by Mr. Charles Akpan, the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Furthermore, the statement stipulated that as contained in the Trade Dispute Act, 2004 (Section 8 and 18) parties in disputes are expected not to arm-twist, intimidate or foist helplessness on the other party while negotiations are ongoing. Hence, any strike when the matters are before a conciliator and undergoing conciliation will be barred.
Moreover, the government had already stated that 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.
The statement reads thus: “This call for 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 commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic’’.
As a matter of fact, the Federal Government stressed it had addressed most of the Union’s demands; therefore, the leadership of JOHESU should have a rethink of the whole situation and most importantly put the welfare of their patients and Nigeria at the forefront.