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Hazard allowance cannot be tied to salary level, seniority, says JOHESU

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*Urges FG to be dispassionate in approval, disbursement of wages to health workers

Health workers excluding medical doctors under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) have urged the Federal Government not to tie the payment of hazard allowance to salary and seniority.

Chairman, JOHESU, Comrade Joy Bio Josiah, in a memo to the Federal Government on permanent payment mechanism of hazard allowance to health workers in Nigeria, said hazard could not be tied to salary level or seniority in the present scenario of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) because of the following:
*Coronaviruses are in the air and surfaces, not in body fluids like hemorrhagic viruses (Ebola, Lassa). Everyone in the vicinity (hospital, isolation centre...) is therefore equally exposed.

*Not all doctors are equally exposed to the air, surfaces and persons carrying coronavirus, but for as it is now, being a doctor qualifies you for the highest pay. Even dentists having no dental case are enjoying free undeserved booties. That is discrimination against the rest.

*The pharmacist, laboratory scientist, cleaner, nurse, front desk officer, records, administrative and security officers, engineering, mortuary attendants and all other staff are exposed even when patients’ statuses are not confirmed.

*Threat to life on exposure takes no discriminatory progress; and profession, status and class have no effect on them.

*No life is more valuable than the other.

JOHESU, therefore, said they would want for all healthcare workers:
*An equal pay per hour. When you are present for a number of hours, you are paid, when you are absent, you are not paid. As it is now, the ‘top’ and senior Doctors staying at home are getting the highest allowances.

*An equal life insurance. Relatives of dead people are as bereaved as any other.
*An equal appreciation in all ways. The attackers and goal scorers in football matches are not isolated for praise, the whole team wins and are equally appreciated. You do not single out health professionals; you call them all healthcare workers.

Josiah said: “We call on the FG to be dispassionate in the approval and disbursement of wages to Health workers in Nigeria as this is the only panacea on any vicious cycle of entropy which characterizes industrial disharmony in the health Sector.

“Finally, we assure the Government of our sincerity of purpose in the quest for a more stable working environment in all the health facilities in our country.”

Josiah said the issue started on April 21, 2020, the Federal Government facilitated a temporary Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some health sector professional bodies based on a proposal tabled principally by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) which brought in some of its affiliate professional associations on the table in a new found spirit of “collaborative” approach in the health sector.

Josiah said to give credibility to the exercise; the JOHESU that was not originally slated to be a part of the meeting was invited to the latter stages of the deliberation, which was to sign an already formulated MoU, by the NMA.

“It was important to allow peace to prevail in the current mood of the nation and the entire world. We therefore with some reservations played along with what is supposed to be a three months temporary MoU,” he said.

The JOHESU Chairman further explained: “Typical of the NMA, the major thrust was to structure a continued dominance as well as create new exclusive benefit packages for its members. The professional Associations that teamed-up with NMA were not aware of the details of the meeting like JOHESU.

“The major contribution of JOHESU was to insist, contrary to the NMA position, to reject a selective list of Health workers as beneficiaries of the COVID-19 hazard allowances by positing that the entire value chain of Health Workers including non-clinical staff must be beneficiaries of hazard allowances. Some other highlights of the NMA catalyzed MoU that was fundamentally flawed was the decision to review the JOHESU-driven increase of the retirement age of health workers from 60 years to 65 years with an amplification that now provides that medical doctors on the consultant cadre can now retire at the age of 70 years.

“This selfish desire of the NMA should not be allowed to truncate the clamour of JOHESU in this regards for the last seven years.

As it stands today, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has already given a consent judgement on the increase of the retirement age of health workers from 60 years to 65 years, so this temporary MoU which should subsist for only three months should indeed become a nullity in the overall professional and public interest of consumers of health in Nigeria.

“The JOHESU finds it necessary to posit as follows with regards to giving a more reliable template for the structuring of Hazard Allowances for Health Workers in the post-COVID-19 era.”

Josiah said the smart NMA has cunningly tied payment of hazard allowances to a basic salary and doctors’ basic salaries are relatively higher than anyone else’s, but the hazard is not supposed to be tied to how much you earn! He said the peculiar job, atmosphere; length of exposure, etc. should be the determinant factors, not salary level. “Each cadre of healthcare worker has peculiar risks. In the same cadre, the seniors may be less exposed, but they get higher pay if this unorthodox method is used. The Junior Doctors are much more exposed to environmental hazards than the senior ones, but are paid less,” Josiah said.


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