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JOHESU, AHPA urge FMoH to address welfare challenges of members

By Adaku Onyenucheya
25 July 2019   |   3:20 am
Health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU)/Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have urged the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to address all welfare challenges by members that threaten industrial harmony in the sector.

Health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU)/Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have urged the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to address all welfare challenges by members that threaten industrial harmony in the sector.

Chairman, JOHESU, Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, during a courtesy visit to the Permanent Secretary, FMoH, Mr. Abdullahi Mashi Abdulaziz, in Abuja, urged the latter to address lingering welfare challenges of JOHESU/AHPA members which include: implementation of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) consent judgment; withheld April and May, 2018 salaries of members; and adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS).

Josiah said an undiluted implementation of the ADR consent judgement will go a long way to return the lost harmony which will, in turn, enable effective, efficient and affordable healthcare delivery to the masses of Nigeria.

He said that JOHESU/AHPA members have noted the relative inactivity that ensued after the consent judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) and therefore humbly request that the FMoH immediately energise the necessary machinery for the actualisation of the various ADR resolutions, which have now become a judgement of the NICN. “The reality as it stands now is that the Federal Ministry of Health has violated the judgment of the NICN because many of the timelines have expired,” Josiah said.

The JOHESU chair specifically demanded that the FMoH immediately sets up the reflected structures in line with the NICN judgement.

On the withheld salaries of JOHESU members in April and May 2018, Josiah said: “We find it extremely necessary to draw your attention to the challenge of withheld salaries of our members in April and May, 2018. This was hinged on a selective ‘No Work No Pay’ resolution of the Federal Executive Council.

It is on record that the controversial ‘No work No Pay’ policy of the Federal government has never been applied in any sector of the economy. In one instance Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike for at least three months, yet their salaries were never withheld. Even when medical practitioners (medical doctors) were on strike, no such obnoxious policy was used against them. Particularly resident doctors in Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for six weeks 2018.”

He referred the FMoH under to the 2017 Terms of Settlement they had with the Federal Government on September 30, 2017 which forbade victimisation of those who participated in the April and May 2018 strike which was a direct consequence of the failure of the Federal Government to implement the Terms of Settlement within five weeks of signing same.

On the adjustment of the CONHESS as was done to the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), Josiah said: “In 2009 the Federal Government committed itself to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on relativity in the two salary scales that were introduced via CONHESS for all health workers except doctors and CONMESS for doctors.

The express implication of the MoU was that any adjustment on any of the scales will transcend to the automatic tinkering of the other scale by a commensurate percentage.”

“Since 2014 when the Federal government adjusted the CONMESS Scale holistically, it has further adjusted selectively in 2017. During negotiations on this matter with a team of Federal Government officials led by the erstwhile Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, and the Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who incidentally are medical doctors.

“At the peak of negotiations with this Federal Government team, it offered N6.5 billion which we rejected because it was grossly below the N22.6 billion prepared by National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission (NISWC) as agreed in the 2017 Terms of Settlement.

The erstwhile president of the senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, who promised to accommodate Federal Government approvals for CONHESS through the supplementary budget, also brokered an intervention. An unofficial source had also hinted during the Senate President intervention that, the Federal Government was willing to increase the appropriation for CONHESS to N8.25 billion, and that the balance should be provided for in the 2018 supplementary budget.

“These moves were never sealed before events took us to the ADR centre of the NICN, where to the chagrin of the JOHESU leaders, the FMoH now claimed it could only offer N2 billion at a time N6.5 billion had been earlier rejected. At this stage, it was obvious the FMoH team to the mediation which stretched proceedings to over three months on flimsy excuse of seeking the Health Minister’s approval for a realistic vote was playing games to wear us out which was why the matter of CONHESS adjustment suffered a deadlock at the ADR centre.”

The health workers also alleged jeopardisation of anti-corruption policy at Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, Imo State. He said: “It is on record that the Buhari Administration has anti-corruption posture as one of its policy thrust. JOHESU fully subscribes to this anti-corruption policy of the Federal Government which motivated our members to encourage government by enlisting members to ensure whistleblowing at FMC Owerri, in other to expose the monumental corruption of the erstwhile management of the facility led by Dr. Angela Uwakwem.

“Surprisingly, this has turned out to be an albatross to our members who provided information in this direction. As they have been denied their salaries for four months in 2017, promotion opportunities in 2018, in addition to losing benefit packages tied to whistleblowing. This is most discouraging and we strongly urge the Permanent Secretary to device remedies in this regard.”

Josiah called on the Permanent Secretary to stand and be counted to ensure that justice is dispensed to members of JOHESU by actualising the adjustment of CONHESS.

The JOHESU chair called on the FMoH to set up the sub-committee on the critical labour matters and the central standing committee to address the various pending issues assigned to them via the consent judgement of the NICN; and that this sub-committee should have JOHESU leaders as members.

JOHESU assured the Permanent Secretary of their willingness to extend necessary cooperation as he leads the FMoH to embark on the very important assignment of ensuring compliance with all judgements of the NICN which were issued on March 28, 2019, payment of outstanding 2018 salaries to their members and actualising the adjustment of CONHESS scale which has been pending for so many years.