BY Frank Ikpefan
Health workers, under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), have begun their planned strike.
The action took effect at 12 a.m on Monday, following the alleged inability of the Federal Government to meet their demands.
JOHESU urged its members to withdraw their services across the country to key into the industrial action.
The union said it took the decision at its expanded National Executive Council (NEC), which took place on Sunday.
But the government described the proposed strike as ill-timed and illegal.
It asked JOHESU to shelve the action and return to the negotiation table.
At a conciliatory meeting brokered last Thursday by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the government announced that it had reached an agreement with the unions.
But JOHESU leaders, at the end of their meeting with the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; JOHESU Chairman Biobelemoye Josiah, and other officials, were given till Saturday, September 12, 2020, to report back to the government team.
In a memo on Sunday, JOHESU said the unions unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the conciliatory meeting with the Federal Government last week, the strike notice was “still germane and alive”.
The memo, copies of which were sent to Ngige, was jointly signed by the President of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), Biobelemoye Joy Josiah; Secretary-General of MHWUN, Dr. Silas Adamu; President of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Abdulrafiu Adeniji; Secretary-General of NANNM, Thomas Shettima; and President of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Hassan Makolo.
Others included: President of Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, Dr. Benjamin Akintola and General Secretary of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Peter Adeyemi.
It reads: “You would recall that at the end of the meeting held in your office on Thursday, September 10, 2020, JOHESU demanded that the outcome of the meeting between JOHESU and the Federal Government be reported back to our expanded NEC meeting and give a feedback to the Federal Government within 48 hours.
“In the light of the above, the meeting of our expanded NEC was held on Saturday, September 12, 2020. And at the end of the meeting, which was held physically and virtually, it was unanimously agreed that since nothing concrete was achieved at the said meeting with the Federal Government, the strike notice is still germane and alive.
“Therefore, the 15-day ultimatum still subsists, and with effect from midnight of Sunday, September 13, 2020, our members shall withdraw their services due to Federal Government’s inability to meet their demands.”
A statement by the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said Ngige noted that going ahead with the strike would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.