The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, again on Wednesday said that the Federal Government would not pay members of the Joint Health Sector Unions, who had been on strike since April 17.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, stated this during a telephone interview with The PUNCH, just as Justice Sanusi Kado of the National Industrial Court in Abuja ordered the union to call off its strike latest Friday.
JOHESU, which comprises all health professionals excluding medical doctors, had declared a nationwide strike on April 17, 2018, despite pleas from the Federal Government.
The Federal Government consequently implemented a ‘No work, no pay’ policy thereby stopping the April and May salaries of the striking workers.
However, the minister told The PUNCH that the workers would be paid for the work done from April 1 till April 17.
He, however, said for every day that the JOHESU workers embarked on a strike, there would be no pay.
Adewole said, “We are not paying them any arrears. We will only pay them for the 17 days they worked in April. However, any health official who worked during the strike would be paid in full. Some of them actually worked all through the strike.”
There was confusion on Wednesday on whether the union would call off its strike as ordered by the industrial court.
The Vice-President of JOHESU, Chiemelie Ogbonna, in an interview with journalists outside the court, said the union would abide by the court order and call off its strike by Friday, June 1, 2018.
But later on Wednesday, the President of the union, Mr. Biobelemoye Josiah, in an interview with journalists after a meeting with the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said negotiations were still going on.
A group, the Incorporated Trustees of the Kingdom Human Rights Foundation, had obtained a court order against JOHESU mandating the health workers to call off their industrial action on May 21, 2018.
However, JOHESU refused to comply with the court order, insisting that it would appeal.
In its resumed hearing on Wednesday, the counsel for the claimant, Nnamdi Okere, said JOHESU had yet to call off the strike, despite serving the President of the union, Josiah Biobelemoye, and the Vice-president, Ogbonna, with the court ruling.
Consequently, the claimant filed form 48 and 49 which are for committal proceedings on contempt of the court.
In response, the counsel for the JOHESU President and Vice-President, Hezekiah Ivoke, argued that they had filed an appeal and stay of execution and so the National Industrial Court should decline jurisdiction on the matter.
However, the court observed that the said appeal and stay of execution were not in the court’s file.
The counsel for the plaintiffs, I.T Abdussalam, argued that there was a pending ruling of the court directing that the strike should be called off and that the court took the decision because human life, which is guaranteed under section 33 of the 1999 Constitution, is involved and so the court should compel JOHESU to obey the law and not to disobey the ruling which had not been appealed against.
In his ruling, Justice Kado ordered that all the parties should ensure that the court ruling was obeyed. He ordered that JOHESU should call off its strike in 24 hours.
However, it was extended to 48 hours after the counsel for JOHESU pleaded for more time to obey the order.
The court noted that the matter was a sensitive one as human lives were involved due to the nature of the sector involved in the dispute.
The judge, therefore, warned that none of the parties should do anything to jeopardise the dispute resolution process.
In his remarks outside the court, the Vice-President of the union, Ogbonna, said the union would call off its strike by Friday, June 1, 2018.
He said, “As responsible citizens of Nigeria, we have decided to honour the National Industrial Court by submitting ourselves to its mediation centre which must commence immediately. We would also call off the strike on the first day of June.
“In the interest of Nigerians, we are sheathing our swords. We are a law-abiding union and we shall give the law the opportunity to take its course for equity, fairness and justice to all parties
But after the meeting with Saraki, the President of the union, Josiah, in an interview with journalists, declined to say whether the strike would be called off or not.
When asked if the strike had been called off, National Chairman of JOHESU said, “The other time I told you that the meeting with the Senate President was promising, it still remains promising. Discussions are still on and we have got to significant levels but in our routine, we will also call our members.
“After further discussions, briefing them on what we have been discussing with the Senate President, we will then communicate to Nigerians on where we are.”
Asked if the workers were closed to calling off the strike, he said the leadership would meet with the members to determine their decision.
Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted over three hours, was held behind closed doors in Saraki’s office. Saraki had met with the workers on Monday.
Last week, Saraki had begun his mediation between the government and JOHESU over the ongoing strike by the workers which has crippled Nigeria’s public health care facilities for the past 40 days.
The Senate President had held a meeting with JOHESU’s leadership on Thursday afternoon and later on Friday morning with the Minister of Labour, Productivity and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige and the Minister of Health.
The Punch News