The Federal Government has directed the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) to withdraw their strike notices immediately, describing the notifications as arm-twisting.
It explained that their actions were not allowed in the International Labour Organisation Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation and that it had become imperative to withdraw the notices.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said that the time of notices was surprising as both NARD and JOHESU recently issued the government notice of trade disputes.
Ngige disclosed this while addressing a news conference in Abuja on Friday at the end of a meeting with the Presidential Committee on Salaries, relevant Federal Government stakeholders, and health sector professional associations and trade unions.
According to him, those things (strike notices) are arm twisting and I told them that they must withdraw them because the issues they are bringing in here are tangential issues because they have nothing to do with this discussion on fixing a new hazard allowance for health professionals and workers.
The minister said that the Federal Government would take the final decision on the new hazard allowance for health workers, adding that the government’s side allowed enough time for the Nigerian Medical Association and JOHESU to harmonise their different positions on the hazard allowance but they were not able to do so.
He, however, said that the matter would be returned to the National Salaries, Wages and Incomes Commission, and the Presidential Committee on Salaries to decide on the new hazard allowance for health professionals and workers.
According to Ngige, the government is treading cautiously in order not to be seen as trying to stampede the health workers since the matter concerns money.
“We will have separated them into JOHESU and NMA but that will give us much problem in terms of the implementation of whatever we agree on. So, we are taking them jointly and it is yielding fruits now. The two big bodies have given their final positions. The government has taken their final positions back.
”We have also allowed them time to see if they can discuss among themselves like they did just before COVID-19 and we came out with COVID-19 allowance. We have given them that time to see if they can meet and harmonise their positions but they are not able to do so.
“We are adjourning this meeting sine die for the government side to look at those two positions to see whether we can do a middle of the road within our organ, the NSIWC, which by its mandate, is the government organ that fixes salaries, wages, allowances and remuneration,” he said.
Ngige recalled that the Federal Government earlier offered the health workers 300 per cent increment on hazard allowances, which amounted to N37.5 billion.
He said that they were trying to work within that realm of N37.5 billion, following the inability of the unions to harmonise their different positions.
“It is a teething problem because everybody has CBAs and we are now renegotiating the CBAs. There are CBAs in 2006, 2009, 2013 and even court pronouncements by the National Industrial Court, especially on work value and equal pay. These are things we will put in a basket and decide,” he added.