JOHESU: Health workers to suspend strike as court ‘takes over’ negotiations

Empty maternal care hallway at Asokoro district hospital as a result of the health workers strike

The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) says it is “considering” suspending the ongoing strike by health workers which has crippled services at public hospitals across Nigeria.

A report by Vanguard newspaper stated that the decision followed the intervention of the National Industrial Court (NIC), which offered to take over the mediation process between the striking workers and government.

Confirming the development, National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Ogbonna Chimela, Wednesday in a phone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, however, said the union was still ‘consulting’ and ‘considering’ when and how to suspend the strike.

“Yes, we are in the court in Abuja and the judge made some pronouncements but we are still consulting and considering the next move and when to suspend. You will get the final details soon,” he said.

About two weeks ago, the court ordered the workers to return to work within 24 hours. This followed an ex-parte motion filed by a non-governmental organisation.

But the union which said it remained ‘unmoved’ and was yet to be served with the order by Justice Babatunde Adejumo of the court, later confirmed receiving the order.

JOHESU, a body of all other health workers except doctors, called the strike 43 days ago.

The impasse has caused many deaths. Patients are passing through untold pains and their relatives are grumbling as federal, state and local government health institutions have been brought to their knees.

There were meetings between the government and the union with the Ministers of Health and Labor, Isaac Adewole and Chris Ngige leading the negotiations.

No common ground has been reached in these meetings, however, and members of JOHESU are accusing both officials of bias.

In fact, they called for removal of Mr Adewole as health minister, labelling him the major barrier to the resolution of the strike.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the court mandated its mediation centre to take over the negotiation and reconciliation processes within the next 24 hours in the interest of the public.

Responding, health ministry’s spokesperson, Boade Akinola, said the ministry was yet to receive the ruling.

“We have not seen the ruling, when we do so, we will be able to respond but rest assured that the Ministry of Health always obey court orders,” she told PREMIUM TIMES.

Meanwhile, the leadership of JOHESU in Lagos on Wednesday suspended the industrial action in the state.

Olatunji Tajudeen, the Lagos State JOHESU chairman who also confirmed the Industrial Court ruling, said government hospitals in the state had been directed to suspend the strike.

“The strike is today (Wednesday) suspended in Lagos State. This was approved by our national body and it will take effect immediately,” he said.

Mr Tajudeen said the suspension was because of the “achievements and commitments” made by the state governor to the plight of the health workers.

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