We Will Withdraw Court Case If You Go Back To Work, FG Tells Striking Doctors

A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
A combination of photos showing the NARD logo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

 

The Federal Government is ready to withdraw the case instituted against the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) if striking doctors return to work.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said this on Sunday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

“I have briefed Mr President, we have agreed that they should come back to work and if they come back to work, we can take other things from there. We will withdraw the case in court,” Ngige said.

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“So, this is where we are with them and we are saying that even if anybody cares to put it in any agreement, that clause will be void ab initio because it’s against the law of the land and we will not, as a government, succumb to undue arm twisting and then go and sign that.”

The Minister explained that some workers had lost their pay during previous strikes (under the “no work, no pay” rule) and the same punishment will be meted out to the striking doctors if they refuse to resume.

“Other workers have lost their pay during strikes; the Joint Health Systems Union (JOHESU), they lost their pay in 2018 when they went on four months strike; they lost about two or three months’ pay when the no-work, no-pay rule was invoked,” the minister said, adding that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suffered the same fate last year.

“Nobody paid them (ASUU) anything for six months and it was during COVID-19. So, we can handle things administratively, but nobody should arm-twist,” he said.

The Minister also revealed that a list of 8,000 doctors to benefit from the Medical Residency Training Fund is being considered by the government.

 

FG Vs NARD: Lingering Tussle

The lingering tussle between the Nigerian government and NARD has been on since July 31 when the doctors went on strike to press home their demands.

Despite a series of meetings between the Federal Government and the striking doctors, no resolution has been reached.

While the Federal Government insists that the demands of the doctors have been met, the doctors insist otherwise.

Some of the issues raised by the medical practitioners include the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.

They are also asking for an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary institutions.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had in the wake of the disagreements threatened to invoke the “no-work, no pay” rule on NARD.

But the NMA has thrown its weight behind the striking doctors and other health workers.

 

Resident Doctors’ Strike Ethically Wrong, Not Acceptable – S.A Labour Minister

Clara Dike

The Special Technical Adviser to Minister of Labour and Employment, Clara Dike, has said that the current industrial action embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is morally unacceptable and ethically wrong.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television breakfast programme Sunrise Daily, she expressed concern about the damaging effect of the industrial action by the doctors, noting that the medical profession is an essential profession involving lives of people.

“Their profession is an essential service profession. They cannot take this kind of action based upon what they think, feel or perceive the government may do or may not do. We signed terms of settlement. Their profession is among the essential services listed in our heart.”

The resident doctors had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to notify the Federal Government before they finally resolved to proceed on the industrial action but the Special Adviser to the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige emphasised that the action by the doctors came as a huge surprise to the Federal Government.

She said the doctors reneged on the agreement reached after series of meeting held with them, chaired by the Minister of Labour.

“The first meeting was held on the 14th of August and they agreed on 10 points and how to go about resolving their issues. When we now received another letter on the 27th of August, we called them again on the 31st of August and held this extensive meeting with the Minister as the conciliator.

“It was quite a long meeting and we dealt with all the 6-point issues they brought and reached conclusion on them.

“We admitted almost everything they asked for, considering the fact that they are in essential services. Any strike by medical doctors is morally unacceptable and ethically not allowable based on their Hippocratic oath and other biomedical principles.”

When pointed out that the Hippocratic oath according to the doctors has a clause that says provided everything they need to work is provided for them, she said the doctors need to focus on the effects of their actions and the lives of people involved but not focus on the exception clause in their Hippocratic oath.

“They need to provide these health services to people in need. Maybe one doctor is absent in one hospital, we don’t know how many deaths that will lead to. The exception clause in the Hippocratic oath is not what we are talking about, we are talking about the main substance of that oath.

“So, we agreed to all their demands, not minding that section 18 of our Trade Dispute Act, that is the Labour Act, provides that once we start conciliating there shall be no strike and there shall be no lock out. Not minding all that, we are still engaging them.

“We have scheduled a meeting for Wednesday by 12noon.” she added.

College Of Education Lecturers Suspend Strike For 3 Months

COEASU suspend strikeLecturers under the auspices of the Colleges Of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have suspended their strike for three months.

The President of the union, Mr Emmanuel Asagha, told journalists in Abuja after a meeting with the Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, that the decision to suspend the strike was to give the new minister time to look into their demands.

”The strike will be suspended for a period of three months as it is being emphasized that the issues will be resolved in the shortest possible time and we cannot just call off the strike”, Mr Asagba said.

”We believe a period of three months is reasonable enough for the Government to prove their mettle in addressing the key issues; hence students will resume on Monday”, he concluded.

The Minister of Education and former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, assured the union that Government would take practical steps to address their needs.

”We have assured them that we will facilitate and fast track all the process of reaching out to all other agencies involved in resolving the issues” Shekarau said.

The lecturers, who have being on strike, joined their polytechnic counterparts in suspending their strike for three months and seven days to ensure that the Government do the needful in addressing their demands.