• Pledges Improved Health Sector
Com. Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, Chairman, Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), has urged the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to comply with all judgments of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) issued on March 28, 2019 pertaining to the payment of outstanding 2018 salaries to members and actualising the adjustment of CONHESS Scale pending for many years.
Josiah made the appeal when he led a delegation of JOHESU/ Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) national leadership on a courtesy visit to Abdullahi Abdulkadir, the Permanent Secretary, FMoH last Thursday, in Abuja.
He told the Perm Sec that contrary to the pervading impression that JOHESU does not believe in dialogue, members had always excelled in the finest tenets of rules of engagement to ensure the stability and growth of the health sector.
He then intimated him of some of the lingering welfare challenges of JOHESU members which include implementation of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) consent judgment; payment of withheld April and May, 2018 salaries of members; adjustment of CONHESS salary structure and implementation of the ADR reached between JOHESU and the Federal Government.
He said, “We wish to bring you tremendous goodwill from the National Secretariat of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA), which constitute over 95 percent of workforce in the health sector.
“JOHESU further draws your attention to the very important subject matter which is germane to the career, progress and wellbeing of all health workers under the umbrella of JOHESU. An undiluted implementation will go a long way to return the lost harmony which in turn would enable effective, efficient and affordable healthcare delivery to the masses of Nigeria. You will observe that the Federal Ministry of Health has been mandated through specific intervention plans with timelines to ameliorate the restiveness of our members.
“This development is a product of many years of rigmarole taking us through negotiations with the Federal Ministry of Health, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FML&E) and a complete complement of other relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Our members have noted the relative inactivity that ensued after the consent judgment of the NICN and therefore humbly request that the FMoH immediately put necessary machinery in motion to actualise the various ADR resolutions which have now become a judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN). The reality as it stands now is that the Federal Ministry of Health has violated the judgment of the NICN because many of the timelines have expired.”
Josiah told the Permanent Secretary that JOHESU specifically demands that the FMoH immediately sets up the reflected structures in line with the NICN judgment, Central Internship Placement Committee for all eligible health professionals (timeline 4 weeks from execution of ADR) March 28, 2019; the FMoH liaises with CMDs/CEOs PICA & IPPIS to effect payment of promotion/skipping arrears; Staff Audit Committee including members of JOHESU to critically examine concerns of understaffing and irregular employment affecting members of JOHESU (Execution of the exercise to be within 2 to 4 weeks from date of execution of this term (March 28, 2019); and implementation of the five-man committee report on Specialist Allowance for Health Professionals.
Others are that the FMoH presents a fresh memo to the National Council on Establishment (NCE) on the review of the retirement age of health workers. It demands that in writing such a memo, the FMoH should take cognizance of the resolution at ADR which counseled that the FMoH should make it clear in its new originating memo that the beneficiaries are healthcare workers in the Federal Health Institutions.
It also includes that FMoH in line with agreements to ensure appointments shall be in line with enabling statutes ensures that representatives of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and PSN are appointed to fill vacant membership slots at the Specialist Hospitals (National Eye Centre and National Ear Centre) and that the FMoH should as a matter of urgency begin the processes to implement the 30th September, 2017 Agreement on Adjustment of CONHESS Salary Structure.
On withheld salaries of JOHESU members in April and May, 2018, JOHESU chairman said, “We find it extremely necessary to draw your attention to the challenge of withheld salaries of our members in April and May, 2018. This was hinged on a selective ‘No Work No Pay’ resolution of the Federal Executive Council. It is on record that the controversial ‘No work No Pay’ policy of the Federal Government has never been applied in any sector of the economy.
He said, “In one instance ASUU was on strike for at least three months, yet their salaries were never withheld. Even when medical practitioners (medical doctors) were on strike, no such obnoxious policy was used against them (Resident Doctors in LUTH for six weeks in 2018).
“Once again we refer the FMoH under your watch to the 2017 Terms of Settlement we had with the Federal Government on September 30, 2017 which forbade victimisation of those who participated in the April and May 2018 strike which was a direct consequence of the failure of the Federal Government to implement the Terms of Settlement within five weeks of signing same. Sir, our teeming members expect that after this visit, your kind intervention will make way for a breakthrough.”
On adjustment of CONHESS Scale as was done to CONMESS Scale, Josiah said that in 2009 the Federal Government committed itself to a MoU on relativity in the two salary scales that were introduced via CONHESS for all health workers except doctors and CONMESS for doctors. The express implication of the MoU was that any adjustment on any of the scales would transcend to the automatic tinkering of the other scale by a commensurate percentage.
“Since 2014 when the Federal Government adjusted the CONMESS Scale holistically, it has further adjusted selectively in 2017. During negotiations on this matter with a team of Federal Government officials led by the erstwhile Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, and the Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who incidentally are Medical Doctors.
“At the peak of negotiations with this Federal Government team, it offered N6.5 billion which we rejected because it was grossly below the N22.6 billion prepared by NISWC as agreed in the 2017 Terms of Settlement. An intervention was also brokered by the erstwhile President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who promised to accommodate Federal Government approvals for CONHESS through supplementary budget.
“An unofficial source had also hinted during the Senate President intervention that the Federal Government was willing to increase the appropriation for CONHESS to N8.25 billion, and that the balance should be provided for in the 2018 supplementary budget.
“These moves were never sealed before events took us to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) centre of the NICN, where to the chagrin of the JOHESU leaders, the FMoH claimed it could only offer N2B billion at a time N6.5 billion had been earlier rejected. At this stage, it was obvious the FMoH team to the mediation which stretched proceedings to over three months on flimsy excuse of seeking the Health Minister’s approval for a realistic vote was playing games to wear us out which was why the matter of CONHESS adjustment suffered a deadlock at the ADR Centre,” the JOHESU chairman explained.
Josiah also spoke about the Anti-corruption Policy at FMC Owerri. He said JOHESU fully subscribes to the anti-corruption policy of the Federal Government which motivated it to enlist members to ensure whistle blowing at FMC Owerri to expose the monumental corruption of the erstwhile management of the facility led by Dr. Angela Uwakwem.
“Surprisingly, this has turned out to be an albatross to our members who provided information in this direction as they have been denied their salaries for four months in 2017, promotion opportunities in 2018, in addition to losing benefit packages tied to whistle blowing. This is most discouraging and we strongly urge the Permanent Secretary to device remedies in this regard.
“We therefore, call on you to stand to be counted by dispensing justice to members of JOHESU and actualising the adjustment of CONHESS,” he said.
Josiah called on the Federal Ministry of Health FMoH to set up the Sub-Committee on the critical labour matters and the Central Standing Committee to address the various pending issues assigned to them via the consent judgment of the NICN, adding that the Sub-Committee should have JOHESU leaders as members.
Replying, Abdullahi Abdulkadir, the Permanent Secretary, FMoH, thanked Josiah and his team for the courtesy visit and assured them of maximum cooperation.
Abdulkadir promised to set up a committee of relevant stakeholders from FMoH and JOHESU to tackle the matters arising.