By Asmau Ahmad
A meeting between the federal government and the striking health workers, under the aegis of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), has ended in a deadlock.
The National Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Obinna Ogbonna, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja, that the meeting held at the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) shortly after the union declared its strike on Thursday, ended in a deadlock.
The health workers commenced an indefinite strike on Thursday over the alleged failure of the federal government to meet their demands.
The union had, in a letter dated 9 May, issued a 15-day ultimatum to the government over an allegation of “inconsistencies in the ongoing negotiations to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for health workers.”
According to Ogbonna, the meeting ended in a deadlock because “we couldn’t reach an agreement with the federal government on Thursday.”
He said it was pertinent for the union to embark on the strike following the expiration of the ultimatum.
He said the majority of persons present at the meeting on Thursday were from FMOH which led to an adjournment of the meeting.
“On getting to the meeting, we discovered that all of the people, except those from the National Salaries Incomes And Wages Commission, were all from the FMOH and the Minister who had already taken a position over the matter that it is impossible to give the adjusted CONHESS, was the one who presided over the meeting.
“We had to tell him that he is an interested party in this matter and for the ministry to have allowed us to declare a strike and according to the labour law, there is a trade dispute already and if a trade dispute is declared, the interested party should not be the one to preside over the matter anymore because you cannot be a judge in your matter,” he said.
Ogbonna said that the matter would be taken over by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, which would be the conciliator between the health workers and the FMoH.
He said the meeting was adjourned till next week, “but no date has been fixed yet due to the mood of the nation and the ongoing political inaugural process.”
The health workers are demanding the immediate approval and implementation of the technical committee report on CONHESS adjustment by the government.
They are demanding the immediate payment of the omission and shortfall in the COVID-19 hazard/inducement allowances of affected health workers in federal health institutions.
They also want the immediate and unconditional implementation of the pharmacist consultant cadre, unconditional payment of all withheld salaries of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital, and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, and outstanding April and May 2018 salaries of members at FMC, Azare.
The union also calls for the speedy implementation of the increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 years and 70 years for consultants in the health professions.
JOHESU is the association of health workers apart from medical doctors and dentists.
It covers health workers’ unions and associations, including the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes, and Associated Institutions, and Assembly of Health Care Professional Association (AHPA).