While the seven-week old strike by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is yet to be resolved, nurses and midwives in Nigeria’s commercial capital city, Lagos, may on Tuesday commence indefinite strike to press home their demands for improved welfare conditions, and particularly the unpaid ‘uniform allowance.’
But the state government has foreclosed the idea of industrial action by the nurses, describing the cause of disagreement as a minor issue.
The nurses, under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos State chapter, on 30 August, gave a 21-day ultimatum to the government, threatening to down tools should it fail to pay the allowances or put in place concrete steps to commence the processes.
The letter, which conveyed the ultimatum and addressed to the office of the state’s head of service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and referenced; NANNM/LS/HOS/01/VOL.1/11, was titled; “Urgent Reminder and Ultimatum on the Central Payment of Nurses’ Uniform Allowance.”
The union accused the government of sectarianism, saying while those working under the state’s health service commission are unpaid, their counterparts at the primary health care board and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) have either received their payment or are in the process of receiving it.
The letter reads in part: “As of now, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and the Lagos State Primary Health Care Board have commenced the payment of the allowance to Nurses and Midwives. Payment at the Ministry of Health would commence soon. The Health Service Commission where a large percentage of nurses and midwives in the state are domiciled is yet to commence payment and has informed us it made no provision for the payment of the allowance
“We would want to make it unequivocal that a situation where the Health Service Commission Nurses and Midwives would not be paid the uniform allowance for this year cannot be contemplated and would not be tolerated at all. We ask that you take this letter as both a reminder and an ultimatum for possible commencement of industrial action. If we do not have concrete assurances in terms of the approval of the Governor and steps for the commencement of the payment within the next 21days, the council would be left with no other choice than to take industrial action to press home our request.”
On Tuesday, when the ultimatum expires, members of the union have promised to make real their threat, describing the government’s response to the ultimatum as lukewarm.
The union has also fixed a press briefing for the day to make public its next line of action over the matter.
Speaking with our reporter on the phone, the union’s secretary in the state, Toba Odumosu, said the briefing would be held at its state secretariat.
“Situation under control”
In a telephone interview with our reporter on Monday, the permanent secretary, ministry of health in the state, Olusegun Ogboye, said the matter would be resolved amicably.
He said the subject of contention is a minor case that would not be allowed to degenerate into a full blown crisis.
“There is no cause for alarm. The state is addressing that. We can assure the public of that. The issue at hand is a minor one, and it is being addressed,” Mr Ogboye said.
Meanwhile, the union also on 10 September wrote Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, seeking an audience over what it described as pertinent issues that it claimed might lead to a “serious dispute with the state government.”
The union highlighted 14 issues in the letter, which included the acute shortage of workforce at the state and local levels, high attrition rate and the need for retention allowance, stagnation of nurses, retrospective approval and regularisation for nurses, among others.
The union also noted that due to heavy workload, many of its members are suffering from various health challenges, and that the state’s health insurance policy does not adequately cater for its members.
On Monday, the industrial action by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) entered its seventh week with no end in sight.
The government had last week secured an order of the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja, asking the striking doctors to resume work immediately.
However, the striking medical personnel said they would not obey the order of the court over what they described as an unfair treatment by the presiding judge.
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