The Federal Government has described the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) strike scheduled to begin on Sunday midnight as “unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal.”
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this in a statement signed by Mr. Charles Akpan, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry, on Sunday evening in Abuja.
The union had, in a letter addressed to Ngige, said it would go ahead with the strike scheduled to commence in the midnight of Sunday.
It cited Federal Government’s inability to meet its demand as the reason for its action.
Ngige said that the Federal Government had directed that the various unions in the health sector operating under the umbrella of JOHESU should not to go ahead with the strike.
He urged the leadership of the various unions that made up JOHESU to have a rethink on the illegal strike by putting the welfare of their patients and Nigeria above every other consideration.
He noted that issues in the trade dispute between JOHESU and the Ministry of Health were being discussed.
According to him, going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
“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 (TDA) 2004.
“This bars 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 hazard allowance.
“An additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances has also been approved to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.
“Besides, all health workers on essential services -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.
“Such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, as it will compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in hospitals across the country,” he said.
He noted that COVID-19 pandemic had been declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO), whose Statutes and regulations had forbidden strike for the period.
He also added that the withdrawal of services was clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government have demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector.
Ngige, however, said that government had addressed most of the demands of the union which included provision of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), approving N29 billion for payments of allowances and also spending N9.3 billion as premium for Group Life Insurance for medical and health workers.
He also noted that during the last negotiation, the meeting resolved all the issues raised by JOHESU against the Ministry of Health.
JOHESU and Ngige had been in a war of words with Ngige threatening to proscribe the trade union according to the provisions of the law.
JOHESU had replied him that they remain unperturbed as his predecessors had said worst things stating that the worst is to throw them into jail for which they are ready if that is the sacrifice they have to pay.