Health workers’ strike: JOHESU only arm-twisting govt, says NMA

  • Doctors not qualified to talk about our remuneration-Union

The Nigerian Medical Association has condemned the nationwide strike action embarked upon by health workers under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union, describing the union and its activities as illegal.

The NMA bared its mind on the issue following the health workers’ decision last Wednesday to resort to a strike to press home their demands that the Federal Government should act on the agreements reached with them before JOHESU suspended their last strike on the same issue regarding the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure and payment of arrears of CONHESS 10, over six months ago.

NMA President, Prof. Mike Ogirima, told our correspondent that the doctors were not in support of the strike action embarked by the health workers under JOHESU.

According to Ogirima, ‘What we said is that the NMA do not want strike. Why the JOHESU are going for strike is that they are envious of doctors’ pay package. Globally, there is what we call relativity such that doctors all over the world do not earn the same salary with other health workers in their respective health institutions, where they work. So, why should it be an issue in Nigeria?

“Our response to this issue is that we have said JOHESU is an illegal body, because it is a body that is formed by unions against the medical doctors; it is not registered. It is just a joint action group. So, let them explain to people where they have been registered as a trade union called JOHESU.

“If it is the various professionals in the medical field under the JOHESU, we know that they are professional bodies that are registered as trade unions like the nurses, the pharmacists, physiotherapists and others, who all have their trade unions formally registered. Yes, we recognise those ones, but not JOHESU and they are now arm-twisting the government to go against the norm.”

Ogirima further explained, “Medical Doctors salary scale was corrected in 2014; they are  now saying because that one was corrected, a mischievous officer of the Federal Government now said that theirs, too, should be corrected, and what it was really was that the doctors salary scale was just corrected and not upgraded. What they are now asking for under their congress is that they want a total upgrade. So, even if they are going to do that, the NMA is not saying that government should not answer their demands but at the same time they should maintain relativity. That is all.”

Reacting, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Mrs. Oluyemisi Adelaja, noted that the strike action was being fully complied with by all health workers.

Adelaja added that JOHESU would not call off the strike until the Federal Government had met all the health workers’ demands.

“All we plead is for the government to answer all our requests, because we have been on it since year 2014; it’s been too long since government has neglected us. They should do the needful so that health workers can go back to work.

Regarding claim on JOHESU’s clamour for the same salary scale with medical doctors in the country, Adelaja noted that the NMA was not in any position to talk about health workers’ remuneration.

“Are they our employers? All of us are Federal Government employees. So, can one employee determine the pay of another employee working under the same boss? So, what is their business with our demands? When they were negotiating with the Federal Government, did JOHESU interfere? We don’t have any business with the NMA, but with the Federal Government,” she said.

The National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, who declared the strike, said it was painful that while the FG had implemented the salary structure for medical doctors, other workers in the health sector had been neglected since 2009.

Apart from the upward adjustment of CONHESS, he said the government had also failed to employ additional health professionals, upwardly review retirement age from 60 years to 65 and failure to implement a particular court judgment.

He said the unions first gave the FG a 21-day ultimatum, but no action was taken, adding that after that, another strike notice of 30 working
days was given, but there was no effort to implement the agreement by the FG.