Activities at the Federal Medical Center ( FMC, Asaba) were on Wednesday paralyzed following protest by members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) over federal government’s “no work, no pay policy” on its members.
The protesters, though peaceful, displayed placards with inscriptions such as: “FG is not serious, its policy can’t take us to anywhere, we dare the FG today to sit at home after today’s protest, FG give us what we deserved, We are not fools, FG policy is a ruse, President Buhari Should review the Policy”.
The nationwide protest was anchored on two major issues: first, the withholding of salaries of JOHESU members for the months of April and May, 2018, and the union’s request for the upward adjustment of the Consolidate Health Salary Structure ( CONHESS).
In a letter addressed to the federal Ministry of Labour and Employment dated January 15, 2019, the union made reference to the strike embarked upon by JOHESU members from April 17 to May 30, 2018 due to the government’s non implementation of the terms of agreement freely entered into on September 30, 2018.
Part of the letter reads, “the strike was Suspended as an aftermath of the Court action instituted by Incorporated Trustees of kingdom Human Rights Foundation International. A pronouncement was made by the Court which Stated that all parties should maintain” Status quo ante” and avoid any action that can jeopardize the peaceful atmosphere required to resolve the issues after the case was referred to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Center.”
The letter further stated that it came as a surprise that while the case was yet to be resolved at ADR, “the Federal Ministry of Health Opted to churning out series of circulars among which was the implementation of the” No Work, No Pay”.
The action led to the non payment of the part of April 2018 and the whole of May 2018 salaries to the members of the union.
But protesters at the FMC Asaba led by Justice Erugboro said, “It is the opinion of the leadership of JOHESU that the action of the Federal Ministry of Health was not in the interest of peace but provoke our members through the frustration they were forced to bear, in the interest of peace, equity and Justice, We hereby appeal to you to use your good Offices to Compel the Federal Ministry of Health to release the withheld Salaries of our members.”
According to the Chairman, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives ( NANNM) a sub union of JOHESU, Comrade Vitowanu Patricia, the Federal Government has continually ignored pleas in the letters and refused to pay the withheld salary, thus bringing about the three day peaceful protest.
“As though the forceful withholding of our salaries is not enough, the government has failed to implement the upward review of our CONHESS that has been on the table since 2014 , but same government has adjusted that of the doctors four times in a space of ten years.
“The discrimination within the health sector has become unbearable, as the doctors receive better treatments than the nurses, the doctors are the ones in positions of authority, heading all the departments and thus fight for their caused,” he decried.
But the Chief Medical Director of FMC Asaba, Dr Victor Osiatuma appealed to the protesters to embrace dialogue with the Federal Government, adding that it was the only way for peaceful resolution with a view to arresting all of the union’s grievances.