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Health workers condemn favouritism, consider withdrawal from isolation centres

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Medical workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), have accused the Federal Government of prioritising the welfare of medical doctors over other health workers in the sector.
 
National President of JOHESU, Josiah Biobelemoye, who made the accusation in Abuja, decried the alleged discrimination in the health sector.
 
He accused the Federal Government of trying to redefine the term, ‘health workers’, especially since the issues of hazard allowances for those managing COVID-19 patients cropped up.

 
Biobelemoye warned that if the posture does not change, JOHESU might be forced to mobilise its members to vacate their duty posts in various isolation centres in Nigeria.
 
Recall that owing to recent industrial action by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), the Government quickly mobilised N4.6billion to settle their hazard and inducement allowances for the months of April and May 2020, to end the strike.
 
Indeed, previous meetings held between the parties had agreed that 50 percent of the basic salaries be paid as hazard and inducement allowances to all staff handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
But JOHESU alleged that the Government was reneging on that agreement, a development that has prompted its leadership to issue fresh strike threats.
 
“We do not pray that the meeting should fail because we are all stakeholders in this fight against COVID-19, but where the unthinkable happens, we will mobilise our members within the shortest notice to embark on industrial action,” he stated. 
 
Among other grievances, which JOHESU insisted must be met to forestall another industrial unrest in the health sector, including adjustment of members’ salary to align with the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) status, which has been under negotiation since 2014, as well as promote those due to directorate levels.
 
The group is also urging the Government to recognize JOHESU members as Consultants and pay them special allowances commensurate with their status, including the implementation of 2017 collective bargain agreement.
 
“For the avoidance of doubt, what was agreed as captured in the Memorandum of Understanding was that the Federal Government agrees to shelve the payment of the existing hazard allowance of N5,000 being paid across board to health workers.
 
“In its place, a special COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowance of 50% of the consolidated basic salary is to be paid to all health workers in all Federal Government Teaching Hospitals, and Federal Medical Centres and designated COVID-19 centres across the country to last for the first three months in the first instance.
 
“The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, even emphasized that all health workers would benefit, and used cleaners, ward-maids, porters, laundry, morticians/mortuary attendants and drivers as examples of the beneficiaries. 
 
“We are very mindful of the consequences of shutting down the health system at this critical period, but we are being forced to toll this path because we entered an agreement to replace whoever is earning N5000 as hazard allowance should be replaced with 50 percent of the basic salary, the payment is now generating huge uproar within the health system.

“Today some machinations have been taking place to redefine who a health worker is, some said other workers should be paid 10 percent, for instance the laundry people who collect materials or waste products from isolation centres, these people are sometimes infected in the course of carrying out their job, for somebody to now say they are not the real health workers beats my imagination, some are biological engineers who decontaminate the isolation centres, all these discriminations, segregation is now breeding crisis in the sector,” he stated.


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