As the industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Health Sectors Union (JOHESU) enters its seventh week, a group, Activists United Against Graft and Anti-People Policies, has called on the Nigerian government to implement the ‘no work, no pay, policy on the striking workers.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos on Monday, Mark Adebayo, the group’s coordinator, said the government must act decisively to end the protracted strike.
“As a union whose services have to do with saving lives, it is most regrettable that instead of always exploring all avenues of dialogue in addressing their grievances with government, health sector workers embark on strike at the often without critically considering the cost in human lives,” said Mr Adebayo.
“There is no gainsaying that many patients in Nigerian hospitals come from poor family backgrounds and the JOHESU strike is having negative effects on them because they cannot afford private hospital bills.
“It is very unfortunate and highly condemnable, their conduct in the past couple of weeks in which they have rejected all entreaties by the national assembly, elder statesmen, notable groups and associations that they should shelve the ongoing strike while negotiation continues. ”
JOHESU, an association of health workers except medical doctors and dentists, embarked on an industrial action to protest among other issues, salary adjustments, promotion arrears, and improved work environment for its members.
One of its key demands, an upward adjustment of their salaries, is being opposed by medical doctors.
Mr Adebayo accused the health workers of demanding salary parity with medical doctors, describing it as “pathetic.”
“This is indeed a tall dream that it is as unrealistic, impracticable and unreasonable.
“This is the act of sabotage by JOHESU to undermine the expertise, competence and acquired skill of a medical practitioner. JOHESU, as it is presently constituted are afraid of its shadows primarily because government has issued a directive to management of all the tertiary and specialized medical facilities not to pay for the days in which JOHESU members across the nation willingly absconded from duty especially after a court of competent jurisdiction has ordered that the strike be suspended.”
A National Industrial Court in Abuja had ordered the striking union to resume at their duty posts with immediate effect, an order ignored by JOHESU.
Last month, the Nigerian government threatened to enforce its ‘no work, no pay’ policy on the striking workers.
On Monday, Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, maintained that those who participated in the strike would not be paid even if the strike is called off.
Mr Adebayo urged the government to ensure it carried out its threat to the letter.
“And very strict punishment should be meted out to any worker who fails to comply to the rule of law which is far above individuals’ or associations’ parochial interests.
“Adequate disciplinary actions should be applied without delay to those committing the illegality of disobeying a lawful court order by continuing the wasting of Nigerian lives as a result of this harrowing strike. There are legions of qualified Nigerian medical personnel and deserving employable Nigerian youth who are jobless in the country.
“They should be given the opportunity to replace those who are not ready to value the lives of Nigerians because of narrow sectoral interests.”