By Joan Nwagwu
The Federal Government has urged the Joint Health Sector Union and Assembly of Health Care Unions Professionals (JOHESU) to shelve its impending warning strike across the country.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment made the call during a meeting between the Federal Government and the JOHESU on Friday in Abuja.
JOHESU had issued a notice of strike to the Federal Government that the union would embark on strike by Monday if their demands were not met.
The union demands include structural and infrastructural decay in the nation’s health sector, the review of the implementation of COVID-19 special inducement and hazard allowance among others.
The minister, while addressing newsmen on memorandum of terms of settlement reached with union said the deliberations were satisfactory.
“The meeting, after exhaustive deliberations on structural and infrastructural decay in the sector, the parties observed that N126 billion was appropriated in the 2020 COVID-19 intervention Appropriation Act.
“The appropriation is for infrastructure upgrading and equipment for the health sector during the period,” he said.
According to him, the meeting also noted that lack of effective communication has made it impossible for the unions to appreciate the degree of investments made in the sector.
Ngige said the meeting, agreed that the unions should be carried along in the affairs of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to ensure proper communication.
He said it agreed that the Private Sector engagement should be encouraged to add value to the sector’s investment generally.
“It observed that JOHESU alleged that many of its members were either omitted or short paid in the implementation of Special Hazard and Inducement Allowance as agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of April 21, 2020.
“According to JOHESU, some of their members were paid 10 per cent of their Consolidated basic Salary instead of 50 per cent in the MoU of April 2020.
“JOHESU has said that some others were omitted in the categories of those to benefit from the Special Covid-19 Hazard and Inducement allowance,” he said.
The minister observed that JOHESU had claimed that in spite of several engagements with the ministry, the anomalies were yet to be corrected as at Sept. 10.
He further said the parties therefore agreed that the health ministry should issue a Circular to the Chief Medical Directors (CMDs) of the various Health Institutions by September 11.
He said the meeting also directed that the CMDs should be requested to forward the list of members affected by the shortfall to the ministry of health by September 14.
Also, on the issue of medical personnel in the educational sector that were not captured in the first tranche of payments, he said the meeting noted that the omission was not peculiar to JOHESU members alone.
According to Ngige, the parties also agreed that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, would consult with the relevant ministers.
He said the consultation could be on how to address the issue as clinics/hospitals under the Federal Ministries of Education, Justice and Defence were all equally affected.
“On the request by JOHESU that all Health workers who hitherto were being paid the five thousand naira (N5000) as hazard allowance should be the beneficiaries of the 50 per cent of their consolidated basic salary as Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement allowance, irrespective of whether they are or non-core medical professionals.
He said the list of these category of workers should be compiled by ministry of health and the attendant financial implication should be computed by the office of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).
This, he said was to see if the request would be accommodated within the available funds because they were not in the original classification for 50 per cent.
He futher noted that the parties observed that JOHESU had claimed that the Adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) was since 2014.
He noted that the matter had been earlier referred to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and could not be resolved by consensus at the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism (ADR) by the NICN.
The meeting agreed that it was unprocedural for JOHESU to bring it up as an item in conciliation meeting.
The meeting, therefore advised JOHESU to either first go and withdraw the case from the NICN before the ministry of Labour and Employment can resume conciliation on the issue or open up discussion with health ministry on a later date.
He added that the issue was a substrata of the case before the NICN and stated that it would therefore be illegal for JOHESU to use it as a basis for embarking on another strike.
It also agreed that on the issue of employment, the Ministry of Health should undertake the staff audit to ascertain the veracity of JOHESU’s claim of understaffing and irregular employment and the ministry should take action and report back in four weeks.
“In view of this understanding, JOHESU will consult with her members with a view to reporting back on Sept. 12.
“The meeting is adjourned to Oct. 15, to enable FMoH to carry out the assignments,” he said.(NAN)