Written by Godfrey AKON

Tackling doctors, health workers’rivalry

For over three weeks, Nigeria’s health sector relapsed into industrial crisis as the Joint Health Sector Union, JOHESU, downed tools, forcing patients to desert public hospitals across Nigeria.

Typically, industrial actions by professional bodies are aimed at addressing issues of workers welfare, working conditions and other grievances as may be identified by the unions, but JOHESU pressed for pay parity with doctors, intensifying the existing rivalry among workers in the sector.

JOHESU president, Mr. Josiah Biobelemoye, said further that the union demanded an upward adjustment of CONHESS Salary Scale, arrears of skipping of CONHESS 10 and employment of additional health professionals, as well as implementation of court judgments and upward review of retirement age from 60 to 65 years.

According to Biobelemoye, the union embarked on the industrial action after government failed to honour the agreement reached with it on September 30, 2017.

JOHESU consists of Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, NANNM, Non-Academic Staff Union, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, SSAUTHRIAI.

Meanwhile, doctors under the aegis of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, voiced their opposition to salary adjustment and harmonisation, describing JOHESU as an “illegal body.”

“The above reminder is predicated on the extension of the ongoing strike action embarked upon by the amorphous body called “JOHESU”, to States and Local government areas, the basis of which is to strengthen its callous and ill motivated agitation for pay parity between her members and doctors with the resultant erosion of relativity and further hierarchical distortion in the health sector vis-à-vis her clandestine romance with some top government officials.

“We oppose vehemently, any adjustment in CONHESS salary scale with resultant pay parity between doctors and healthcare professionals allied to medicine, and hereby reaffirm that relativity is sacrosanct,” the doctors said in a statement.

Despite suspending its much-criticised strike action last Friday, the disruption of public health services and renewal of the old rivalry between health workers and doctors caused by JOHESU strike has again exposed the half-hearted disposition of government towards agreements with unions.

As clearly stated by JOHESU, government has not shown commitment towards fulfilling its part of the agreement reached in 2017, which impugns its integrity and sincerity as a negotiator and implementing agent. Since the scenario remains the same in all agreements reached with different trade unions in the country, public office holders must be mindful of the negative image they impose on the Nigerian Government for snubbing conscious agreements and pursue timely implementation of such future contracts.

Government must also address the discrimination created by its placement policies for workers in the Nigerian health sector which has constituted an albatross to peaceful coexistence among workers.

On the one hand, while all health workers deserve high wages and better working conditions as the country grapples with a deficit of professionals in that sector, JOHESU needn’t dabble across professional disciplines to demand equality.

There is need to also proactively engage unions to forestall industrial actions that would lead to disruptions in public health services and avoidable deaths.

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