Nigeria health workers threaten ‘mega strike’

Nigeria’s entire health system will be paralysed this time if the federal government fails to meet the demands of health workers in 30 days, the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU has said.

“This one is the mega strike. If it begins, it will start with the federal then states will join, the local governments will join. Let the health system in Nigeria be paralysed for the first time”, the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, said Wednesday in a phone interview with VELOXNEWS.

The members of JOHESU are hospital workers, apart from medical doctors and dentists.

JOHESU embarked on a nationwide strike last September to protest among other issues, salaries adjustments, promotion arrears, and improved work environment for its members.

In compliance with the declaration of an indefinite strike by JOHESU, the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM directed its members to stay away from all federal health institutions across the country.

On the 9th day of the strike, JOHESU struck a deal with government.

According to JOHESU, six months after the deal was struck, the government is yet to meet any of its demands.

Mr. Chimela said series of meetings with the federal government to see these demands to fruition over the years were remained unfruitful.

“We can no longer sit and wait. We started this negotiation since 2009, in 2012 we had an agreement. In 2014 there was also an agreement. Instead of implementing ours, they implemented for medical practitioners and we have to wait again until 2017.

“Even before we called off the strike in September, we reached an agreement. All these meetings have been culminating in agreement without implementation of the so called agreements”, Mr. Chimela, who also doubles as the President of National Union of Allied Health Workers, NUAHP said.

The union official also said JOHESU had embarked on a sensitisation and mobilisation tour of the six geopolitical zones of the nation ahead of the expiration of the 30 days ultimatum.

“We are on sensitisation and mobilisation tour of the six geopolitical zones of the nation. Why we are doing this is to awaken the conscience of all citizens of this nation. Because we know that an ordinary or common Nigerian will not have the money to go for medical tourism and if we begin this strike, it’s the common man that will suffer and that is why we are giving this long gap to the government to really do the needful. However, strike is the only language that the government seems to understand,” he said.

Mr. Chimela said the union made 18 demands from the government which included upward salary adjustment.

He further accused the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA of frustrating efforts geared towards implementation of the demands.

The NMA had repeatedly declared its opposition to many of the demands made by JOHESU, describing them as unacceptable.

The NMA specifically opposed salary harmonisation, one of the important agreements government reached with JOHESU, and declared that the doctors cannot receive the same salary as other health workers.

“Who is NMA? Why should they decide our fate? They are very greedy and that is why we should not allow them to decide our fate,” the JOHESU union leader quipped.

“The NMA is just an association and not a union. Under the trade union law they are not even supposed to be recognised as a union but the Federal Government have being stooping law in order to please them because they have people in the policy making platform so they use that opportunity to lobby their way.

“They have negotiated for theirs then why should they try to decide the fate of other people whom government has also entered into agreement with,” he added.

Mr. Chimela also accused the health minister, Isaac Adewole, of being ”biased against the union”.

“Nepotism! That is what the minister of health is practicing and he’s dancing towards their (NMA) claims against that of the majority.

“The JOHESU family comprises 95 per cent of the work force in the health sector, NMA is just 5 per cent they are now using that opportunity of being at the helm of affairs to marginalise us but we can’t take that. Let the government intervene on this matter.”

Calls and text messages sent to the phones of both the health minister and ministry’s spokesperson, Boade Akinola, for a response to the allegations were not returned as at press time.

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