Tuesday, May 30, 2023

JOHESU Declares Indefinite Strike

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The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have commenced an indefinite strike over the federal government’s failure to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for health workers as was done with the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) for physicians.

Consequently, the Union has directed its members in Federal Health Institutions nationwide to withdraw their services indefinitely commencing from 00.00 hours on Thursday, 25th May 2023.

The unions demanded immediate payment of the omission and shortfall in the Covid-19 hazard allowances of affected health workers in the Federal health institutions and recognition of health workers in non-core hospital facilities in the payment of the new hazard allowance.

They also demanded speedy implementation of the increase in the retirement age from 60-65 years and 70 years for consultants in the health professions.

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Speaking with journalists yesterday in Abuja, Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr Ogbonna Chimela said that the strike became necessary due to the nonchalant, biased and lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Ministry of Health against the union members and following the resolution of the expanded National Executive Council Meeting (NEC) meeting of JOHESU held on Monday, 8th May 2023.

He noted that the Unions were compelled to embark on an indefinite strike to highlight major issues such as the wage and benefits of non-physician health professionals and workers, negation of Consultant cadre for non-physician [fealth Professionals in Federal Health Institutions (FHIs), outstanding payment of allowances to health workers.

The Vice Chairman observed that the unions have shown enough patriotism in the last four years of this administration and in the public interest by not embarking on any industrial action even though their counterparts like the NMA and NARD have gone on strike severally during the life span of this administration.

He stated that the mode of payment of all health workers in Nigeria is Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) while Physicians are on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) but as at 2009, the Memorandum of Understanding at the inception of these two salaries structures and subsequent and the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Federal Government and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) established strongly that once there is an adjustment in any of the salary structure, the other structure should be adjusted commensurately.

Ogbonna decried the social injustice and discriminatory adjustment championed by the Federal Ministry of Health in favour of the Physicians and to the great disadvantage of other health workers lead to a Trade Dispute declared by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) in September 2021 adding that this dispute was however apprehended by the Chief Conciliator of the Federation and Minister of Labour, Senator Dr Chris Ngige at a conciliatory meeting held on 7 September 2021 at the Conference Room of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately approve and implement the Technical Committee Report on the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS).

The unions also demanded immediate and unconditional implementation of the Consultant Cadre Circular for pharmacists in all Federal Health Institutions, unconditional payment of all withheld salaries of Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, JUTH, LUTH, and April and May 2018 salaries of members at NOSIF, Azare.

Chimela lamented that the last three successively Physician Health Ministers in the last twelve (12) years that is; Prof. C Chukwu (2011-2015), Prof. Isaac Adewole (2015-2019), and the present Minister Dr Ehanire Osagie (2019-Date) have deliberately truncated the adjustment of CONHESS on four (4) occasions since January 2, 2014 (nine and a half years ago) when the first adjustment of CONMESS for Physicians took place and subsequently in 2017, 2018 and now May 2023.

He said, “During the conciliatory meeting attended by the Minister of Health Dr Ehanire Osagie and the then Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnibe Mamora with other top Federal Government Officials from Ministries and Inter-Ministerial Departments and Agencies with the National Leadership of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the meeting resolved that, all matters in dispute be referred back for negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health”

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“Upon resumption of negotiation at the Federal Ministry of Health at a meeting held on 19″ September 2021, the FG and JOHESU team agreed to the setting up of a High-Level Inter-Ministerial Committee to determine the justification for the adjustment of CONHESS, work out a detailed financial implication and make appropriate recommendations.

The Committee was chaired by the Chairman, of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Mr. and membership drawn from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Budget Office, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).

The Technical Committee Report had since been submitted to the Federal Ministry of Health for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council. ‘That the Ministry has refused to do for over a year”.

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Photo Credit: Getty

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