Real Reasons FG, JOHESU Parley Failed To Avert Strike | TimeTestedNews

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Following the 15 day-ultimatum given by Joint Health Sector Unions and Assembly of Health Care Professionals (JOHESU) to commence an industrial action by midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, convened a conciliation meeting on Thursday, September 10, 2020, with the unions’ leadership and relevant government stakeholders to address outstanding issues and avert the strike.

During the meeting, the minister said: “N126 billion has been appropriated in the 2020 COVID-19 Intervention Appropriation Act for infrastructure upgrading and equipment for the health sector during the period but lack of effective communication has made it impossible for the unions (JOHESU) to appreciate the degree of investments made in the health sector.”

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In an agreement reached and read by the minister at the end of the meeting, it was agreed that “the unions be carried along in the affairs of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ensure proper communication”; and that private sector engagement should be encouraged to add value to the health sector investment generally.

On the omission and shortfall in payment of the special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance, the meeting agreed that the Federal Ministry of Health should, by Friday, September 11, 2020, issue a circular to the Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) to forward the list of affected members to the Ministry of Health by Monday, September 14, 2020, to facilitate payment.

In addition, JOHESU was asked to mobilise their members in the local chapters to ensure the CMDs comply with the circular.

Ngige said he would consult with the relevant ministers on how to address the matter of medical personnel in the education sector not captured in the first tranche of payment, as clinics/hospitals under Federal Ministries of Education, Justice and Defence were equally affected.

On the request by JOHESU that all Health workers, non-core medical professionals inclusive, should be beneficiaries of the 50 per cent of their consolidated basic salary as special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance, the meeting asked the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to see whether it could accommodate the request within the available funds because certain groups were not in the original classification for that category of benefit.

The meeting noted that the matter of adjustment of consolidated health salary structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) since 2014” had earlier been referred to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), and therefore advised JOHESU to either withdraw the case from NICN so the Ministry of Labour could resume conciliation on it, or open up a discussion with the Federal Ministry of Health later.

On withheld April and May 2018 Salary of JOHESU members, the meeting stated that the action was taken on the authority of “Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act Cap T8 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004, to deter workers categorised as essential services from embarking on strike.”

The meeting noted that the issue was a substratum of the case before the NICN, and therefore illegal for JOHESU to use it as a basis for embarking on a strike.

The meeting also directed the Federal Ministry of Health to commence the implementation of those issues that were adopted as consent judgement at the NICN, and report back in four weeks, viz: internship training; ascertaining the veracity of JOHESU’s claim of understaffing and irregular employment; headship of the department.

In view of the understanding reached, JOHESU was to hold an expanded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting and consult with her members with a view to reporting back on Saturday, 12 September, while the meeting was adjourned to October  15, 2020, to enable the Federal Ministry of Health carry out its assignments.

The Memorandum of Terms of Settlement was signed by Minister for Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of State for Health, Olorunimbe Mamora; Permanent Secretary, Labour and Employment, Dr Yerima P. Tarfa; National Chairman, JOHESU, Dr Biobelemoye Josiah; Deputy General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ismail Bello, and other union officials.

However, after its expanded NEC meeting held on Saturday, JOHESU, resolved and insisted on going on a nationwide strike from midnight of Saturday.

The unions unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the meeting with the Federal Government on Thursday over their issues and demands, their 15-day ultimatum earlier given to the government subsist, hence, the strike notice is still alive.

JOHESU wrote the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, on their resolve, after their expanded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting to start a strike from Monday. The letter dated September 12, 2020, with reference number: HQ/JOHESU/ADM/FMoH/VOL.II/58; was titled: “Re: Notice of 15-day ultimatum/outcome of JOHESU expanded NEC meeting.”

The letter read: “You would recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, 10 September 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give feedback to the Federal Government within 48 hours.

“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held today, Saturday, 12 September 2020. And at the end of the meeting, which was held both physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, that the strike notice is still germane and alive.

“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists and with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to Federal Government inability to meet their demands.”