The federal government has been pushed to a tight corner as medical doctors, against whom other health workers’ ongoing industrial action is indirectly targeted, have threatened to embark on their own strike should the government accede to the demands of the Joint Health Sectors’ Unions (JOHESU).
JOHESU and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had said the refusal of the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, to abide by the ruling of the National Industrial Court(NIC) over some of the issues in contention was responsible for the strike.
JOHESU is demanding, among other things, having consultants among their non-medical staff members, the payment of specialist, call duty/shift and other professional allowances as enjoyed by doctors.
In a swift response to the indirect assault, however, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), in a statement yesterday, said while it had nothing against the right of “any group or individual” to determine how best to achieve its objectives, the doctors would down tools if government succumbed to blackmail and intimidation.
The statement signed by Dr. Osahon Enabulele and Dr Akpufuoma Pemu, President and Secretary-General respectively, said: “We affirm that no group or union has monopoly over the use of strike actions in seeking the actualisation of its objectives.
“Therefore, the NMA shall not hesitate to use similar means if government fails to uphold the rule of law and succumbs to blackmail and intimidation.”
In a meeting summoned by the Minister of Labour and Productivity; Chief Emeka Wogu, on behalf of the federal government yesterday, to seek a quick resolution to end the strike, the Secretary General of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRAI), Mr. Moshood Akinade, speaking for JOHESU, said since his assumption of office, Chukwu had pursued only the interest of the NMA to the detriment of other health professionals.
He gave instances of the minister’s actions and policies which were clearly in favour of the NMA, events which played a big role in last week’s declaration of an indefinite strike by the union.