By G9ija

There were indications on Friday that health workers under the umbrella of Joint Health Sector Unions would end their ongoing strike following a peace meeting in Abuja with government.

Although JOHESU leadership reached an agreement with the federal government at a conciliatory meeting brokered by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the union refused to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, citing previous experiences where government reneged on its decision.

At the end of the meeting attended by Ngige; Minister of State, Labour, Festus Keyamo (SAN); Minister of State, Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; JOHESU Chairman, Biobelemoye Josiah, and other officials, the government stated that it had appropriated N126 billion in the 2020 COVID-19 intervention Appropriation Act for infrastructure upgrading and equipment for the health.

According to a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the government blamed lack of effective communication for the unions to appreciate the degree of investments made in the sector by the President Muhammadu Buhari – led administration.

Going forward, the government agreed to carry the unions along in the affairs of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure proper communication.

Also, parties at the end of the meeting equally agreed that private sector engagement should also be encouraged as this would add value to the health sector investment generally.

According to the communique, the meeting agreed to effect the gaps identified by JOHESU in the implementation of the Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement Allowance in which unions alleged that many of its members were either omitted or short-paid,

The meeting agreed that the Federal Ministry of Health should issue a circular to the Chief Medical Directors of the various health institutions by Friday, September 11 requesting JOHESU to forward the list of members affected by the shortfall to the ministry by Monday.

JOHESU was asked to mobilise their members in the local chapters of the tertiary health institutions to ensure that the CMDs forward the list of their members to the ministry to facilitate the payment.

On the issue of medical personnel in the education sector that were not captured in the first tranche of payments, the communique noted that this omission was not peculiar to JOHESU members alone.

The health minister said he would consult with the relevant ministers on how to address the issue as clinics/hospitals under Federal Ministries of Education, Justice and Defence were equally affected.

The statement noted, “On the request by JOHESU that all health workers who hitherto were being paid N5000 as hazard allowance should be the beneficiaries of the 50 per cent of their consolidated basic salary as Special COVID-19 Hazard and Inducement allowance, irrespective of whether they are or non-core medical professionals; the minister of labour and employment explained that the MoU of April 2020 in 1(d) was explicit on this.

“However, the meeting agreed that this category of workers should be compiled by FMoH and the attendant financial implication should be computed by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to see if this request can be accommodated within the available funds because they were not in the original classification for 50 per cent.”

Regarding the adjustment of the Consolidated Health Salary Structure as was done with Consolidated Medical Salary Structure since 2014, the meeting noted that the matter had been earlier referred to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria and is one of the issues that cannot be resolved by consensus at the Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism.

The meeting was adjourned till October 15 to enable the health ministry to carry out the assignments.