Doctors’ Strike: We have Made Meaningful Progress – Labour Minister

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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The Nigerian government says it has addressed all the demands of striking Doctors except one which touches on the “no work no pay” rule.

The government is therefore calling on members of the National Association of Resident Doctors to call off their 33-day old strike.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige revealed this to State House Correspondents after he met behind closed doors with President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him: “We have come to an agreement on all the demands including those that even affect the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria and the medical Doctors who are in the academics and teaching in universities.

 “So, we have handled all, the only point of disagreement now is that they said that in the memorandum of action, government should insert or include that section 43 of the trade dispute act should not apply to them. That section says that when a worker withdraws his services from his employer, the employer is at liberty to withhold payment of emolument to him.

He said the Nigerian government will never be a party to such an agreement or grant such a request.

“So this is where we are with them and we are saying that even if anybody cares to put it in any agreement, that clause would be void ab-initio because it is against the law of the land and we will not as a government succumb to condole arm twisting and sign that.”

The Minister said it was unfortunate that the strike is taking so long because, in other climes, people on essential services like the health sector don’t go on strike arbitrarily.

READ ALSO: https://von.gov.ng/2021/08/07/strike-we-cant-be-intimidated-resident-doctors-tell-minister/

“In overseas and other climes, you don’t strike for more than 3-5 days highest. Much more importantly, people on essential services; medical services in particular, where u can lose lives, they don’t go on strike anyhow. They only piquet and things like that because people’s lives are involved,” he said.

Ngige said the ‘no work no pay’ rule had been applied in the past and the case of the resident Doctors cannot be an exception.

“Other workers have lost their pay during strike, the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) lost their pay in 2018, when they went on four months’ strike, they lost about two or three months’ pay when the ‘no work no pay’ was invoked.

“Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ‘no work no pay’ applied to them, nobody paid them anything for six months and it was during COVID so, we can handle things administratively but nobody should arm-twist,” he said.

The Minister called on the striking doctors to resume work first, in order to give room for further action on their sole demand that has not been granted.

“I have briefed the President and we have agreed that they should come back to work. And if they do, we can take other things from there,” he pledged.

 

Nnenna.O