The Joint Health Workers’ Union has threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the Federal Government does not agree to its demands.

This was revealed in an interview with the PUNCH on Tuesday by Dr. Obinna Ogbonna, the National Vice Chairman of JOHESU.

JOHESU is the umbrella body of health workers’ unions and associations, including the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, and Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions.

In a letter dated May 9, 2023, the leadership of JOHESU gave the federal government a 15-day deadline over what they claimed were the government’s inconsistencies in the current negotiations to change the Consolidated Health Salary Structure for health workers on their platforms.

The unions made a point of noting the ministry’s propensity to depart from the terms and conditions of their agreement relating to non-discrimination in the setting of salaries and benefit packages for health workers in Nigeria.

They stated that the “recent communication from the Federal Ministry of Health which attempted to sabotage the laudable report of the Technical Committee on the Adjustment of CONHESS as was done for CONMESS, by claiming its implementation would distort existing CONMESS relativity with CONHESS.”

Other demands include, “payment of all withheld salaries of our members in Federal Medical Center in Owerri, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and their withheld April and May 2018 Salaries; speedy adjustment of retirement age from 60 – 65 years and the exclusion of some health workers in the payment of new hazard allowance as well as payment of COVID-19 allowance balance.”

The 15-day ultimatum commenced on May 10, 2023, and will expire at midnight on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Reiterating the strike ultimatum on Tuesday, Dr Ogbonna said, “We have already communicated to the government regarding the ultimatum, and what we demanded the government to do have been stated in the ultimatum. If the government fails to implement our demands as bargained, we will embark on an indefinite strike.

“Our demands are not new as we have been talking about it since 2014 and the salary and wages commission has done their work and given recommendations to the government.

“It was the FMoH that ought to have taken it up and if by Wednesday, the issues are not resolved, we will down tools. We are ready for a showdown because all federal health institutions that have our members will withdraw their services, and it is an indefinite strike because the government has failed to do the needful.

“It is the usual practice when it is like one day or two days before the expiration of the ultimatum, they may now invite you and they may even run to the court to get an interim injunction to stop us or threaten no-work, no-pay policy but we are not afraid, we must get it right this time.”