THE Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) have joined the Joint Health Staff Union (JOHESU), to take over and prosecute the struggle embarked on by the medical workers against the Federal Government and especially the Ministry of Health.
The JOHESU has threatened to embark on a nationwide strike after its earlier 15-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to address the issues in contention expired last Friday.
But the National Chairman of JOHESU and President of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comd. Biobelemoye Josiah, said the workers have given the government another seven-day grace after the intervention of some men of God and leaders of thought.
He said: “What the NLC/TUC is organising is not within our hands, we only pleaded that it should be tuned down and today should be a warning rally. Thereafter, if they don’t behave appropriately and if we have any reason for us to come back, then we will come back in full swing.
“We have given them seven days to act appropriately. At the end of the seven days, we will report back to the NLC that they have not acted appropriately, now you can do everything you want to do. And we will come back for the massive one.”
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However, as a prelude to the nationwide strike, the workers, led by the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, occupied the premises of the Federal Ministry of Health in protest early Tuesday morning, disrupting official activities and smooth running of activities.
Addressing the protesting workers, Wabba said he was delighted that the workers have united against the tyranny of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Health.
The NLC President said: “This is just the beginning of the struggle. Get your mattresses and cooking pots ready. We’ll occupy both the Minister’s house and office until he sees the reason to do justice and fairness within the health sector.
“We are going to deploy all the provisions of the labour laws to ensure we assert our rights and also demand that the court judgement particularly the NICN judgment must be respected. We must be paid what is due to us.
“Adewole cannot continue to perpetuate falsehood and think he will have peace. He can’t peace because he has not accepted the fact that he is the minister of health and not only of medical doctors.
“Certainly, he can’t leave visible track records and succeed as a Minister of Health without a well-motivated workforce. How can he alienate 90% of health workers and claim he is doing the right thing?
“He took the unions to court and abandoned the court processes and other dispute resolution mechanisms put in place. He cannot have peace until he is ready to undo the steps he has taken which has brought hardships and difficulties to many families.”
In his own comment while addressing the protesters, JOHESU Chairman, Comd. Josiah Biobelemoye said: “We are here this morning because the labour centres have taken over the struggle to a large extent from us. We are also here to enlighten Nigerians on why we are doing what we are doing. This is because the ministry will come up with unfounded propaganda that we are in court, hence, we ought not to be here.”
He pointed out that the issue that brought them to the ministry was not part of the issues already in court.
He said: “First, we are rallying against their action to violate the orders of the court. Recall that on May 20, 2018, the court directed us to suspend any action and in the process, the court also said that no one should do anything that will jeopardize peace in the workplace.
“But while we are still discussing, the Federal Ministry of Health decided to discriminatory and corruptly implement the no work, no pay policy even after the court said no one should do anything to provoke the other.
“We decided to remain calm because we are mindful of the effect of our action to Nigerians who cannot pay for private clinics. We know that the public health sector is providing healthcare to over 70 per cent of Nigerians, that is why we were reluctant in carrying out any action since the past seven months.
“We want Nigerians to understand that the federal ministry of health took us to the court through a mercenary. That mercenary as a third party has no business in the National Industrial Court.
We did not put that into consideration, but for the love of Nigerians, we constraint ourselves from embarking on actions that will put pains on Nigerians.
“You can see that the no work no pay policy which they say is a federal law, which we have no doubt about it, but it is being implemented only in the Federal Ministry of Health. The federal ministry of education tried to implement such laws but because they were properly educated, they withdrew from it.”
On the ultimatum and imminent strike, Comd. Biobelemoye said: “As we have said before, we were ready to commence strike, but because we are mindful of Nigerians. We know that every strike affects the common man negatively. We are still using this medium to call on well-meaning Nigerians to mount pressure on the Minister of Health to do the right thing.
“We cannot blame the President (Buhari) because he is being fed with the wrong information. This is because this same president who said he has no money to pay us has provided so much money to pay other sectors. So, to us, it is the problem of the health minister and his management.”
He pointed out that all their members across the country were ready for the strike, saying, “When we went round, our members said they were ready for the strike.”
The JOHESU Chairman added: “Last Friday, our members went for special jumaat prayers and then on Sunday, we were in Church. But coincidentally, the Church of the Nation the JOHESU team went to make prayers was where the minister of health also worshipped. We met there and the overseer of the church appealed to him that it is in his power to resolve the matter and let Nigerians get better health and we too should give a little time.
“When it has come from the man of God that we should give some time, we are now giving the federal ministry of health the whole of this week.”