FG declares JOHESU strike illegal

• Don't arm-twist FG, Ngige warns

The Federal Government has warned the various unions in the Health Sector under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) not to go ahead with the strike scheduled to commence on Sunday midnight, describing the strike as ill-timed and illegal.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said the strike is “unnecessary, ill-timed and illegal,” adding that the Federal Government commitment to Health Sector is Manifest and irrevocable.

Ngige called on the unions not to go ahead with the strike; saying that the Ministry of Labour and Employment has apprehended the dispute with the conciliation initiated on Thursday, September 9, 2020, which is still ongoing.

A statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan warned that going ahead with the action would be illegal as it is in clear breach of the ILO Principles and Conventions on Strike and Section 18 of the Trades Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He urged JOHESU not to arm-twist or intimidate the Federal Government that has shown a clear commitment to tackling the challenges in the sector as evidenced by the huge resources it has been pouring into the Sector since the Global COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the statement said.

The statement said: “The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige has effectively apprehended the trade dispute as forwarded to him by JOHESU and has brought JOHESU and the Federal Ministry of Health, their employers, to conciliation since Thursday, September 9, 2020. Parties in disputes are expected not to arm-twist, intimidate or foist helplessness on the other party while negotiations are ongoing as per Sections 8 and 18 the of Trade Dispute Act (TDA) 2004 barring any strike when the matters are before a Conciliator and undergoing conciliation.

“Any strike now is inimical to an equable settlement of the dispute, bearing in mind especially that this is a grave period of a pandemic where the Federal Government has spent about N20 billion to pay April/May 2020 and an additional N8.9 billion for June 2020 on Covid-19 hazard and inducement allowances respectively to all categories of health workers that are mainly JOHESU members.

“Besides, all Health workers on essential services such -Pharmacists, Nurses/Midwives, Radiographers as members of JOHESU are statutorily barred from strikes during emergencies, by both the ILO Statutes and the Trade Dispute Act 2004. Such an action while the nation battles the COVID-19 emergency accentuates its illegality, as it will compound and aggravate the challenges in health services, causing further risk and deaths to the sick in hospitals across the country as the Covid-19 pandemic has been declared as a situation of “Acute National Health crisis” by both the ILO and World Health Organisation (WHO) whose Statutes and regulations have forbidden strike for the period.

“This call for the withdrawal of services is clearly unnecessary as the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity in her amelioration of age-long challenges in the health sector and has overly shown a commitment to the welfare of health workers by providing enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and boosting their morale while tackling the strange pandemic. The least expectation hence is that JOHESU should reciprocate the gesture while the government works to meet its other demands post-COVID-19.”

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