Organised labour rejects privatisation of health institutions

By Helen Shok Jok. Abuja

Nigerians have been advised to reject the call for the privatisation of the public health institutions.

The President, Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, Ayuba Wabba gave the advice in Abuja on Monday, while addressing members of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria.

Mr Wabba said if privatisation is allowed, healthcare would be out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians.

Global best practices
According to him, authorities in Nigeria must adhere to  global best practices where health is considered, as the fundamental right of all citizens.

“We still believe that public health institutions are established for public good and to serve as a social service point for the four runners.

“So, we are standing here to say no to privatisation of public health institutions and this is the position of the Public Service International, where they said health is not for sale,’’ Mr Wabba stated.

One of the challenges presented to the NLC President by the leadership of the Medical and Health Workers Union, was the disregard for collective bargaining signed by governments and the union.

Mr Wabba stated  NLC’ s position on the importance of collective bargaining as enshrined in the Conventions and Protocols of the International Labour Organisation, ILO.

Collective bargaining agreements
He said; “Laws are meant to be respected, court pronouncements are meant to be implemented.

“Also, Collective Bargaining agreements in line with our national laws, in line with global best practice, in line with Convention 98 and 87 are supposed to be respected and implemented…I think that without implementing those collective bargaining agreements, we are creating an avenue for chaos in the industrial relation system in this important sector…Where there is disagreement in this sector, it is actually the citizen who suffers because even the UN Charter recognises the fact that health is one of the fundamental rights of every citizen.’’

Mr Wabba called on government to ensure that collective bargaining agreements in industrial relations were implemented to eradicate conflicts and industrial disputes in the health sector.

The Medical and Health Workers Union through its President, Mr  Biobelemoye Josiah had threatened to down tools,  if its conditions of service and other agreements reached between it and the Nigerian  Government were not implemented.

Mr Josiah said that the shutdown had become imperative as  government had continued to renege on agreements entered into by the unions and the Federal Ministry of Health.

He said that the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) would soon meet to propose a date for complete shutdown of the sector, if the agreements were not implemented.

“In 2014, we fought the battle of salary adjustment and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed, but that of the medical doctors have been adjusted, but for us, the Federal Ministry of Health almost denied it.

“They said such did not take place until we were able to provide the documents, but as we speak till now, they have not been able to adjust that salary for us and it has caused serious ripples within the health system.

“So, sooner or later it may lead to complete shutdown when JOHESU family meets, we are going to take far reaching decision on the issues…I am bringing this up to you for your intervention not because we are afraid to go to the battle field, but because we have serious concern for the Nigerian citizens,’’ he explained.

No work, No pay method
According to him, another issue that is threatening the health sector and the work force in general is the use of no work, no pay by the Nigerian Ministry of Health.

Mr Josiah decried the continuous reneging of agreements by the ministry, saying after series of complaints and threats to withdraw their services, they will end up invoking no work, no pay on us.

“JOHESU has also mandated us that whether no work, no pay, it is time we shut down the system which would automatically affect the citizens’’ he said.

Speaking on Privatisation, Mr Josiah called on Nigerians to reject such idea as the Public Private Partnership (PPP), as well as concession of the health sector.

According to him, it is a motive to deny poor Nigerians quality health services and Nigerians should not agree to any of the processes, be it privatisation, PPP or concession.

The NLC President was at the Union’s Secretariat as part of his tour of affiliate unions of the NLC.

Mr Wabba also visited both the Secretariats of the Nigeria Civil Service Union and the National Union of Pensioners, where he promised speedy interventions on all the matters affecting the welfare of workers raised by the Presidents of the unions.

Mercy Chukwudiebere