Joining the wave of strikes in the educational sector, the Joint Health Workers’ Union (JOHESU) on Tuesday declared an it starts today, August 21, an indefinite strike action in all tertiary health institutions in the country. The strike followed the expiration of a 21-day ultimatum declared by the health workers to the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu.
The reason for a strike is a failure of the Minister to implement the agreement that he had reached with the Union and that was also ratified by a recent ruling of the National Industrial Court (NIC). The Union also calls for the immediate removal of Chukwu, who they hold responsible for the problems in the health sector.
The members of JOHESU in federal tertiary health institutions start the action by midnight today, while workers of the state and local government levels will join by midnight of August 28.
“While we sincerely apologize the inconveniences this action may cause Nigerians, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, should be held responsible.”
The National President of the Union, Dr. Ayuba Wabba, said that neither Chukwu nor his representative showed up at a meeting called by the Minister of Labour and Productivity on Monday, August 19. Wabba recalled that the labour minister had referred some of the contentious issues that the parties could not agree upon to the NIC in June, 2012, some of which are non-skipping of Salary Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) 10, National Health Bill, Consultancy and Specialist Allowances and Call/Shift Duty and other professional allowances. Wabba also explained the timeline of the problem in details:
“After 13 months of adjudication, the NIC, in a landmark judgment delivered on Monday, July 22, 2013, on the dispute between JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health earlier referred to it by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, ruled, among other things, that skipping of CONHESS 10 is legal and the purported circular by the Ministry of Health and Head of Service of the Federation stopping it is illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
“The implication of the above position of the court is that members would continue to enjoy skipping of CONHESS 10; that those earlier appointed as consultants would continue to enjoy the status with all the benefits and the withdrawal of their letters of appointment is irregular, null and void; and that the issue of shift duty, administrative non-clinical and call duty allowances should remain as they are, but that negotiation should commence towards an agreement on upward review of the allowances.
“Also, the NIC held that issues already agreed upon were accrued rights and should be implemented without delay, in line with collective bargaining agreement.”