Indefinite Strike Imminent — JOHESU

Posted on: Wed 24-05-2023

The Joint Health Workers’ Union has threatened to embark on an indefinite strike if the Federal Government fails to meet its demands.

The National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, made this known in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday.

JOHESU is the umbrella body of health workers’ unions and associations, including the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions.

The leadership of JOHESU had in a letter dated May 9, 2023, issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government over alleged inconsistencies of the government in the ongoing negotiations to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure for health workers on their platforms.

The unions noted that the ministry had shown tendencies to shift from their agreed terms and rules of engagement relating to non-discrimination in the determination of the wages and benefit packages of health workers in Nigeria.

They stated that the “recent communication from the Federal Ministry of Health which attempted to sabotage the laudable report of the Technical Committee on the Adjustment of CONHESS as was done for CONMESS, by claiming its implementation would distort existing CONMESS relativity with CONHESS.”

While highlighting their demands, the unions called on the federal government to consolidate on Health Salary Structure as agreed in terms of the settlement of September 2017, which had lingered since 2014.

They also urged the government to pay peculiar allowance to health workers “under the aegis of JOHESU/AHP” as well as the immediate and unconditional implementation of the Consultant Cadre circular of pharmacists in all federal health Institutions.

Other demands include, “payment of all withheld salaries of our members in Federal Medical Center in Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and their withheld April and May 2018 Salaries; speedy adjustment of retirement age from 60 – 65 years and the exclusion of some health workers in the payment of new hazard allowance as well as payment of COVID-19 allowance balance.”

The 15-day ultimatum commenced on May 10, 2023, and will expire at midnight on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Ogbonna said, “We have already communicated to the government regarding the ultimatum, and what we demanded the government to do have been stated in the ultimatum. If the government fails to implement our demands as bargained, we will embark on an indefinite strike.

“Our demands are not new as we have been talking about it since 2014 and the salary and wages commission has done their work and given recommendations to the government.

“It was the FMoH that ought to have taken it up and if by Wednesday, the issues are not resolved, we will down tools. We are ready for a showdown because all federal health institutions that have our members will withdraw their services, and it is an indefinite strike because the government has failed to do the needful.”

Ogbonna said the government is yet to invite the union for negotiations despite the ultimatum.

“It is the usual practice when it is like one day or two days before the expiration of the ultimatum, they may now invite you and they may even run to the court to get an interim injunction to stop us or threaten no-work, no-pay policy but we are not afraid, we must get it right this time,” he added.

Also, the Secretary-General of MHWUN, Auwalu Kiyawa said the union is ready for an indefinite strike.

“We are going on an indefinite strike. We had wanted to go on strike before now but there was an intervention from the government and other well-meaning Nigerians,” he said.

Kiyawa noted that members of the MHWUN in the federal tertiary institutions and agencies have been directed to down tools from midnight of Wednesday, otherwise directed by the leadership of the union.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, could not respond to inquiries by our correspondent on the matter. He did not take his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to him on the matter as of the time of filing this report.