Why medical workers suspend strike in principle —JOHESU chairman

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The National Chairman, Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Comrade Josiah Biobelemoye, has given the details of the union’s negotiation with the Federal Government and why the health workers suspended their nationwide strike in principle.

Biobelemoye said JOHESU and the Federal Government held a follow-up meeting in Abuja on Saturday, where the government further considered their demands which in the first instance led to the strike action embarked upon by JOHESU.

Present at the meeting were the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Professor Stephen Ocheni, the Permanent Secretary, in the Ministry of Health, the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, representative of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and other relevant government functionaries.

At the end of the meeting, the JOHESU chairman said a number of agreements were reached, while the government gave strong commitment to back up the agreement. Besides, he said a timeline was given to show the seriousness  of government on the implementation of the resolution reached.

According to him on the issue of internship training, it was agreed that the Federal Ministry of Health will meet with the various regulatory bodies within two weeks with a view to work out the modalities for the central placement of other professionals.

He added that a circular for the implementation of the appointment of the nurse interns will also be released within one week.

He pointed out that the upward adjustment of CONHESS salary scale was one important issue in the conflict. To this, Biobelemoye hinted that after exhaustive deliberations and thorough examination of the processes that are involved in the computation and approval of the upward review of the CONHESS, “it was agreed that Federal Government be given five weeks within which to release implementation circular on the subject matter.”

The meeting, according to him, also resolved that a circular will be written to all health institutions to start implementing the skipping of CONHESS 10 where the implementation has not commenced.

He, however, explained that JOHESU was expected to partner with the government to provide the list of the institutions that have either not started or have not paid the arrears within one week.

“We therefore call on all our members to make immediate submission through their respective unions to JOHESU secretariat for compilation and onward submission to the Ministry of Health,” he said.

On the issue of promotion arrears, he said, “It was noted that the government has started payment of promotion arrears to beneficiaries in various institutions.  We hereby call on our members to report the status of payments in their health institutions to their various parent unions for collation and necessary follow-up.”

The Federal Government has also agreed to make employment in areas of critical manpower shortage; while it was resolved that the critical issue of Enhanced Entry Point for Radiographers and Medical Laboratory Scientists will be treated holistically to cater for all the cadres within JOHESU membership.

On this matter, he said JOHESU is to meet with the Ministry of Health and Salaries and Wages Commission within one week.

Biobelemoye stated further: “The Federal Government agreed that the chief medical directors (CMDs) and medical directors (MDs) appointment should be in line with extant acts of the hospitals and where this is violated, JOHESU should call the attention of the government with a view to doing the right thing.

“It was agreed that the matter of headship of departments should be noted by the Ministry of Health and given necessary consideration since the matter is subject to evolve and quite elastic; change is a constant factor.”

He said a five-man committee including two members of JOHESU shall be set up to look into the issue of specialist allowance, including the allegation of illegal virement of money meant for payment of the allowance.

He added, “In view of the importance of boards of management in the proper running of federal health institutions (FHI), it was agreed that boards of FHI should be constituted without further delay.

“It was concluded that relevant stakeholders should be involved in the process of Public Private Partnership (PPP) and there should be transparency among the stakeholders.  Any PPP arrangement that will further impoverish Nigerians is not acceptable.”

The meeting also agreed that there should be no ‘Same Scale’ promotion in accordance with Public Service Rules, and a circular to that effect will be issued within one week.

On the protracted issue of FMC Owerri, the  Ministry of Health shall conduct promotion interview for the affected staff as soon as possible, while payment of withheld salary will be discussed between the Federal Ministry of Health and unions in JOHESU.

The meting agreed on the review of retirement age from 60 years – 65 years for tertiary health sector as done for tertiary education sector. He said the Ministry of Health will submit a well articulated proposal to the National Council on Establishment with special emphasis that the review is meant for tertiary health institutions.

He, however, gave additional demands from JOHESU which are to considered by a special standing committee to be set up by the Federal Government.

He said: “The Ministry of Health should ensure that the Office of Head of  Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) circularises the amended Scheme of Service for Nurses and other professionals within one week.

“Teaching allowances for nurses and health workers from CONHESS 7 and above taking teaching duties, while shortfall of Call Duty Allowances as per last review of Call Duty Allowances for nurses and other health workers taking call duties.