By Joan Nwagwu
The Federal Government on Tuesday, urged the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), to suspend its ongoing industrial action across the country.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment said this in a statement signed by Mr Charles Akpan, Deputy Director, Head, Press and Public Relations in Abuja.
Ngige said that it was imperative for NARD to suspend the industrial action as government had already addressed six out of the eight demands listed by the association.
He said government would reconvene a conciliation meeting between NARD and Federal Ministries of Health, Finance and Budget and National Planning on Wednesday at the Ministry of Labour and Employment to avert the ongoing strike.
According to Ngige, by Labour Laws and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions, when issues are being conciliated, all parties are enjoined not to employ arm-twisting methods to intimidate or foist a state of helplessness on the other party; in this case, your employers, the Federal Ministry of Health.
He, therefore, appealed NARD to respect the country’s laws and suspend its industrial action, while noting that a high percentage of the Association’s demands had already been addressed.
“This is coupled with the existence of a pending case in the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) instituted by two Civil Society groups against NARD, the Attorney -General of the Federation, and the Ministers of Health, and Labour and Employment.
“NARD has no reason to embark on an industrial action, ”he said.
He also stated that the groups, Citizens Advocacy for Social Rights (CASER) and Association of Women in Trading and Agriculture (AWITA), had also asked for an interlocutory injunction against further strike by NARD.
He added that all the parties had already appeared and exchanged court processes.
Ngige said that in spite of lean resources occasioned by the effect of COVID-19 on oil output, the federal government had already spent N20 billion on the Special Hazard and Inducement Allowances for Medical and Health Workers for April, May and June 2020,.
This, he said was with a few outstanding payments to some health workers for June 2020.
He added that the federal government has expended N9.3 billion as premium for Group Life Insurance for Medical and Health workers, as well as for all civil and public servants in federal organisations that are Treasury funded, to run from March 2020 to March 2021.
He disclosed that the federal government have appropriated the sum of N4 billion in the Special Intervention COVID-19, while N500 billion in 2020 appropriation for the funding of Medical Residency Training and intended to do same in the ongoing 2021 Budget.
The minister further stated that N4 billion had been processed for payment.
Ngige also said that the matter between NARD and the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital had been resolved.
He said that the resolution of the issue of State Governments not addressing the consequential adjustment to the new minimum wage, and low patronage of Residency programme were ongoing.
He said plans were on for the conciliation meeting between NARD and Federal Ministries of Health, and Finance, Budget and National Planning to be held on Wednesday at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.(NAN)