The Federal Government has begun the process of withholding the salaries of health workers who participated in the recently suspended strike.
The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) – a body of all other health workers except doctors – last Thursday suspended its nationwide strike which crippled services across public hospitals in the country and left millions without care.
Since 2014, they have been asking the government to increase their pay and improve their working conditions among other demands and no common ground has been reached yet.
On Thursday, they resolved to shelve the strike ”in the interest of the public” and allow the National Industrial Court take over negotiations between them and the government.
In the first week of the strike, the government threatened to invoke the ‘no work no pay rule’ but the union rebuffed the threat.
The workers resumed duties fully on Monday.
In a bid to implement its initial threat of ‘no work no pay’, the ministry of health on Tuesday, in a circular directed all Chief Medical Directors (CMDs), Medical Directors (MD) and registrars at all federal health institutions to submit a final list of health workers who did not participate in the strike ”as they are the only ones to receive salaries for the strike period”.
“You will recall that following the strike by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), which commenced at midnight of Tuesday 17th April 2018, you were directed by a letter Ref. No. DHS/166/T2/198 dated 18th April 2018 to maintain a strict, well supervised Attendance Register in order to implement the “No Work No Pay” law of the Federal Government”, the circular signed by O.J Amedu, Head of Hospital Services Department for the Health Minister, Isaac Adewole read in part.
“Consequent upon JOHESU suspending its strike and the resumption of work by health workers on Monday 4th June, 2018, you are directed to submit a final list of health workers who did not participate in the strike and were at work from Wednesday 18th April, 2018 to Sunday 3rd June, 2018 to enable Government process payment of their salaries. This should be forwarded on or before Friday 8th June 2018 in both hard and soft copy in Excel Format.”
While calls to the phone of the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital in Abuja, Jaf Momoh, were unanswered, Thomas Agan, CMD of UCTH Calabar, confirmed receiving the circular to press on phone.
“Yes I have received the directive. We must do as directed because our duty is to obey government directives,” Mr Agan, who also doubles as Chairman, Committee of CMDs said.
The CMD of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Chris Bode, said he was also aware of the directive but yet to receive the circular.
Repeatedly calls and texts sent to both the National chairman and the National vice chairman of JOHESU, Biobelemoye Josiah and Ogbonna Chimela for comments were not responded to. Both officials were very vocal during the strike period.
On Friday, Ayuba Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned that the health minister, Mr Adewole, has no right to deny JOHESU members their salaries.
The health minister and JOHESU officials has been caught up in prolonged controversy during the period of negotiations.
JOHESU had called for immediate removal of Mr Adewole, accusing him of bias and being a major barrier to the resolution of the strike.
The week the strike was suspended, the government, in a circular by the ministry of health notified all governing boards of public health institutions across the country to “direct all staff on strike to return to work within 48 hours or be considered as having absconded from work without leave”.