Stephen Angbulu and Deborah Tolu-Kolawole
Published13 August 2021
THE Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has urged resident doctors to call off their ongoing strike, saying embarking on industrial action amid the third wave of COVID-19, cholera outbreak in 22 states and a Marburg virus outbreak is unconscionable.
This was as he said the Federal Government would enforce the International Labour Organisations policy of no-work-no-pay should the doctors continue the strike, stressing that doctors would not be paid from taxpayers money for doing nothing.
He also denied threatening to sack resident doctors who withdrew their services nationwide since August 2, 2021, over alleged poor conditions of service, explaining that all the engagements and consultations so far had been to appeal to them to call off the strike.
Ehanire said this on Thursday, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, during the 18th ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential Communication Team.
The minister said most of the 12 demands raised by the striking resident doctors had been met by the government while the others were under the jurisdiction of states, and not the Federal Government.
Ehanire said, We have said openly that this is not a good time for doctors to go on strike. Were having a strike for the third time this year, which is not good. We have appealed to them. We have been having long meetings with young doctors to tell them that look, we have a certain responsibility to our country.
Nobody threatened anything. We are just appealing; all of us are doctors, all of us went through the same residency. Were saying this is not the time; lets continue to talk about it. Do not put peoples lives at risk. Thats what the Minister of Labour has been saying, that is what the Minister of Health has been saying.
When asked about the no-work-no-pay threat, the minister said, Yes, but thats a standard thing. Thats the International Labour Organisation recommendation that if you did not work, then why will you take?
Your salary comes from taxpayers money. So, if you did not work, why should you be paid? Because if that is so you can be encouraged to stay home for six months and your salary is running from public funds, from taxpayers money, when you have not given the community any service.
The minister said the Federal Government was not entirely responsible for meeting all the demands raised by the doctors, saying, Part of the problem we have is that some of the grudges they have, or let us say, the demands, are with state governments, not the Federal Government.
So, if the state government has not paid some people a salary, why go on a nationwide strike? Among the 12 original demands that they made, seven were state-related. Theyre not federal.
The Federal Government cannot compel a state to pay you a certain salary that you want. But the ones that are concerning us at the federal level, many of them are not even exactly the Ministry of Health either.
Buck-passing as FG drops plans to meet striking doctors
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Thursday said that it had no plans of meeting members of the National Association of Resident doctors.
This was confirmed in separate interviews with the spokespersons, Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Abdulganiyu Aminu; and Ministry of Health, Segun Adetola.
Recall that the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Tanko Sununu, in a meeting with NARD on Monday, urged the striking resident doctors to go back to work while assuring them that all issues would be resolved.
The meeting according to the NARD President, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, ended in a stalemate on Tuesday, while adding that the striking doctors would not return to work.
However, the spokesperson for the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Abdulganiyu Aminu, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, stated that the OHCSF had no plans of meeting the doctors.
This is an industrial matter; it is under the purview of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the HOS has no plans of meeting with them, he said.
Similarly, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Segun Adetola, also confirmed that the ministry would not be meeting with the striking doctors.
He said, I am not aware of any meeting with the doctors again. The two ministers have met with them already and nothing has been done. The benefits they are requesting for are under the purview of the Ministry of Finance and Labour.
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Stephen Angbulu and Deborah Tolu-Kolawole