Health Workers Strike: Meeting with Nigerian govt deadlock

A Hospital ward with health workers used to illustrate the story
A Hospital ward with health workers used to illustrate the story

The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) said Thursday’s meeting between the union and the Federal Government ended in a deadlock as there was no common ground reached to resolve the ongoing crisis.

“We had a meeting with the government on Thursday and it ended in a deadlock. There was no concrete agreement. Everything is still sketchy,” the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, told PREMIUM TIMES in a phone interview on Friday.

According to Mr Chimela, machinery has been put in place to direct health workers in the states and local government to join the strike on Wednesday.

JOHESU, a union comprising all health workers in Nigeria apart from medical doctors and dentists, has been on an indefinite strike for more than two weeks crippling healthcare delivery across federal institutions.

The government had threatened to invoke the ‘no work no pay’ rule on the striking workers but the union called the bluff of the government, saying it will be on the strike until its demands are met.

The government later set up a ‘high level committee’ to reconsider JOHESU demands in a bid to find solutions to the ongoing strike.

According to the Minister of health, Isaac Adewole, 14 out of 15 demands of the union have been implemented, a claim JOHESU described as ‘fallacious’.

On why the Thursday meeting ended in a deadlock, Mr Chimela explained:

“The government is saying they don’t have the N22.6 billion needed to settle the yearly implementation of the CONHESS adjustment and they are offering something lower but JOHESU does not agree. We are still strongly relying on the 30th of September agreement with government.

“They are saying they don’t have money and we are saying they should go and look for money because we entered this agreement with them collectively. It was not under duress. Initial, we gave them five weeks and that five weeks has turned into seven months and are yet to do anything that is why we are insisting that it is now or never.”

PREMIUM TIMES had highlighted five things likely to happen in the health sector if the strike is allowed to persist.

Chief among them is that state and local government health workers will join the industrial action.

On that, the union leader noted, “Since the government is not bulging, we have directed health workers in the states and local governments to join the strike on May 9 and if that happens it means total breakdown of the healthcare system in the country. Only private hospitals will now be operating.”

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