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Kaduna health workers begin warning strike over 25% salary deduction

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The Kaduna State chapter of Joint Health Workers Union has commenced a seven-day warning strike to protest against a 25 per cent deduction from their salaries by the Kaduna State Government.

After a meeting of leaders of 14 arms of the health workers union in the state, they condemned Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s decision to deduct 25 per cent from their April 2020 salaries, saying he was only paying lip service to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

A communiqué issued by the President, Kaduna branch of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Dr. Emmanuel Joseph, Nigeria Medical Association (MMA), Dr. Stephen Akau Kache and leaders of 12 other unions, stated that “the meeting was called to assess the Kaduna State Government’s response to our earlier communication and notice of a warning strike to press home our demands.”

“The quarantine order imposed on the state exempted healthcare workers, who have been in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 and have continued to offer services to non-coronavirus patients since the lockdown began

“There is no clear definition of the different categories of healthcare workers in the occupational safety incentives announced by the state government and that all healthcare workers are in the frontline of this fight against COVID-19 as long as we continue to see patients; there are inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) at our hospitals and primary health centres across the state,” the communiqué reads in part.

They demanded a refund of the 25% deducted in April 2020 and a halt to further deductions and that all health workers in contact with patients or body specimens are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases and should be categorised as such in the state’s occupational safety insensitive.

The group also urged the state government to provide adequate PPEs to all the health facilities across the state, adding, “If government fails to meet the above demands, this communiqué shall serve as an ultimatum and we shall be left with no option than to take all the necessary actions within labour laws.”

Consequently, over 11,000 health workers under the aegis of Kaduna State Health Care Workers Union and Associations began a seven-day warning strike at the weekend over the matter.

But Special Adviser on Media and Communications to Governor el-Rufai, Muyiwa Adekeye, insisted that the strike was a blackmail and unauthorised.

“Government rejects the strike threat and will regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment. To declare strike action amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is naked blackmail,” he said.

However, in a statement signed by Dr. Danjuma Sale, Dr. Joseph, Ibrahim Abashe and Dr. Stephen Kache on behalf of the workers, they denied the claim that they were out to blackmail the state government.

The statement added, “Kaduna State Government paid between N150, 000 and N450, 000 as occupational safety incentives to about 300 selected health care workers (HCWs) and non-HCWs or volunteers in the IDCC and isolation centres or those serving in some of the COVID-19 pillars.

“Less than two per cent of the HCWs in the state benefited from the package. Although grossly inadequate, the promised 10 per cent incentives for other HCWs has not been paid.”

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