Defaulting On Agreements By Govt, The Major Issue, By Dr Chukwunonso
Dr Benjamin Chukwunonso, a Medical Laboratory Scientist, in this chat with GBENGA SALAU spoke on the issues around the ongoing strike by health workers.
What are the issues that necessitated this strike?
FIRST, the major issue that necessitated the strike action is Federal Government insensitive to workers welfare. Again, the agreement JOHESU reached with the government since 2009 has not been met, as it affects workers welfare/allowances.
The government has not been steadfast in keeping to her words on date of implementation of these agreements, the government would say give me two weeks, yet after many years, we are still talking about the same issue. In fact, on many occasions, JOHESU had to suspend her threatened strike action, believing that government will keep to her words, but government has always disappointed.
JOHESU, having given government more than enough time, now, took the last option, which is the strike action. These are some of our demands: A Full implementation of government approved scheme of service for her members and adjustment of CONHESS SALLARY as was done for allopathic doctors.
Two: Payment of arrears on movement from CONHESS 9- COHESSS 11(Grade level ten to Grade Level 12) since the year 2010. Three: Promotion of JOHESU members from CONHESS 14-15 over ten years.
Four: Abolition of illegal posts and responsibilities like office of the Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Commission, which is used to undermine the scheme of service of other healthcare professionals in the hospitals.
Five: Implementation of consultancy status for JOHESU members as directed by the National Industrial Court for all Healthcare consultants who have been appointed, who are on grade level 14. Six: Proper placement of JOHESU members, in line with government approved scheme of service. Seven: Equal representation of healthcare professionals in the Board of Hospitals rather than making Allopathic Doctors as the dominant professional group in the various Boards.
It is a strike action to bring about democratization of the healthcare sector, where the place is run by government-approved scheme of service and the Public Service Rule and not by the whims and caprices of NMA.
What efforts have you made to seek government’s intervention before the union resorted to going on strike?
Often times, meetings would be scheduled, Unions would be there, either that government is not ready or they did not come. Government has not shown sincerity to resolve the issues. JOHESU has been very patient with government and has always given government time, but it has always been disappointed.
Is this strike not a continuation of the rivalry between other health workers and the doctors?
Many have wrongfully noted that the strike action is just due to the rivalry between JOHESU members and allopathic doctors. No, the truth of the matter is that there is a lot of lawlessness perpetuated by members of NMA, by trying to be the one deciding what JOHESU members should be paid. They undermine the scheme of service of JOHESU members. So, JOHESU members are saying no to that because NMA is not the one employing them. NMA, and her jack of all trade mentality under the support of hospital chief executives take laws into their hands. Government is run by laws and rules, you cannot be in cadre A and want to boss another in a different cadre. In line with the Public Service Rule, you must have requisite qualification to take appointment into the Public Service.
For example, in line with the Scheme of Service for Medical Laboratory Scientist, in section 2.9 and 2.9.1,it provides that the Director, Medical Laboratory Services would take charge (Head) the Department of Medical Laboratory Services, but allopathic doctors who are under Clinical Services insist that they must be the head of the Department of Medical Laboratory Services. This action violates the MLSCN Act of section 18 subsection 2 and section 22 subsection 2. And this is what they do to all other healthcare professionals that their Scheme of Service provides for a directorate system. Where there is a director, there is a department, so what is happening is just not rivalry but flagrant lawless exhibited by NMA and her members. And JOHESU members are saying no to this brazen disregard for rule of law. Why this anomaly has continued is that government has not been firm to call a spade a spade and call members of NMA to order.