Govt cautions unions against incessant strike

Clement IllohRESULTING to strike to resolve industrial dispute in critical sectors such as health is anti-development and threaten the wellbeing of workers for optimal productivity, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of labour and productivity, Dr. Clement Illoh has said.

Speaking in Abuja at the formal presentation of the report of a fact-finding Committee into the industrial crisis that paralysed activities at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri for the substantial part of 2014 and middle of 2015, Dr. Illoh said active players in the industrial space must seek to employ social dialogue in resolving industrial disagreement.

He stressed that if various actors in industrial disputes would embrace social dialogue in resolving their differences, the developmental agenda of government would be realized, adding that all management and union officials should see social dialogue as an indispensable tool in the resolution of disputes and do well to also bargain in good faith.

His words: “In his words the penchant to resort to strikes and disruption of work processes remains inimical to the overall development of the country and more importantly and in the case of Federal Medical Centre Owerri (FMCO) jeopardize the lives of Nigerians who need the services of the Centre in order to stay alive.”

Those of us who are fortunate to find ourselves on the payroll of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be responsible by being accountable for the job we undertake which is why we are earning salaries from the tax payers money

Given the background of the crisis that rocked the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri as a result of the strike action embarked upon by the health workers, he explained that the Committee was set up in response to a letter from the Presidency by the three joint-house unions of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANMM).

Illoh further explained that what precipitated the industrial action was the alleged introduction of Public Private Partnership (PPP) by the Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Dr. Angela Uwakwem and allegations of gross financial misconduct and highhandedness against her.

He stressed that towards the resolution of the industrial crisis, the Ministry of Labour and Productivity in performing its statutory conciliatory role in an unbiased, balanced and proactive approach aimed at achieving and maintaining industrial peace and harmony set up a fact-finding Committee to resolve the crisis at the Medical Centre, adding that the Committee made far reaching recommendations which he expressed confidence will restore and promote industrial peace and harmony.

Illoh pointed out that the Committee relentlessly worked on a number of terms of reference which were aimed at unravelling the remote and immediate causes of the industrial crisis and made recommendations that would facilitate the restoration of peace and harmony as well as health care services at the Centre.

He said: “As part of our statutory duties, we are going to do the monitoring of the implementation of the report of the recommendations to see how far the issue of sustenance and promotion of industrial peace which is critical at this stage of our nation’s development. We will monitor and probably set up a tripartite monitoring Committee that will monitor the progress.”

In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Linus Awute noted that the report of the Fact-finding Committee is the best thing that has happened to the health sector.
“We are going to do the needful to make sure that actions are taken based on the recommendations of the report that we are going to do believing that we are doing so in the best interest of the nation.”

While calling on Care Givers to be responsible and accountable to the people to justify the salaries they earn, he condemned in strong terms the incessant strikes embark by health workers, which he described as detrimental to the progress of the nation.

Awute noted: “Those of us who are fortunate to find ourselves on the payroll of the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be responsible by being accountable for the job we undertake which is why we are earning salaries from the tax payers money and so if our primary responsibility is to give care, then the patients that we are to care for should be paramount and must be considered even in the time of anger.’’

In his presentation speech, the Chairman of the Committee, Nyamali John Audu while appealing to the Federal Ministry of Health to, as a matter of urgency, start the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee to avoid further disruption of the activities at the Medical Centre, he warned that unionism is not a license to impunity adding that there are statutory provisions in the extant Labour Law that guides the relationship between unions and management on how to manage and resolve industrial disputes.

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