Akwa Ibom Government and Joint Health Sector Union State, Akwa Ibom chapter are brandishing swords on one another following the ongoing strike by the union and threat by the government to sack the striking workers.
JOHESU had given the state government a 15 day-ultimatum from Monday, June 15, 2020, to accede to their demands, failure which an indefinite industrial action would commence on Tuesday, June 30.
Among the demands by JOHESU include the non-implementation of the already agreed 80% of the National Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), and a review of the hazard allowance to the minimum of 50% of our basic salary as done by other states of Nigeria.
Others are the immediate recruitment of more health workers into the health sector of the state due to the shortfall occasioned by retirement, brain drain and death and the immediate reinstatement of the illegally dismissed 723 local government workers which majority were health workers without due process as contained in the civil service/labour law.
The statement jointly issued by Chairmen of Akwa Ibom branch of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Patrick Odu; Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, Godwin Archibong and Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, Aniebiet Obot, accused the state government of being insensitive to workers’ plights.
However, Charles Udoh, the state Commissioner for Information issued a press release on July 15, 2020, saying “The attention of Akwa Ibom State Government has been drawn to an ill-conceived industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Health Workers Union (JOHESU) over an unreasonable demand for payment of 50% of basic salaries as hazard allowance in this harsh economic climate.
“This is in spite of concerted efforts by the government to provide the best of working conditions for health workers in the state, including up to date payment of all due salaries and allowances, which makes our state one of the best paying states in the health sector.
The efforts of the state government in this regard has continued to receive widespread commendations from various healthcare stakeholders in the country.
“Against this backdrop, government is constrained to state that it is unreasonable and also unlawful for healthcare professionals to embark on any form of strike action during period of Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, a full compliment of related healthcare professionals are expected at their duty posts unfailingly, as required by the terms and conditions of their employment.
“Any staff not found on duty will be considered to be no longer interested in the job and will be relieved of such duty with immediate effect. The relevant health authorities have been mandated to conduct headcount.”
In the release entitled: STRIKING JOHESU WORKERS WILL BE REPLACED IF… Udoh said “The state government has made adequate arrangements to ensure that those who are interested in performing their lawful duties are allowed to do so without disruption or molestation of any sort.
“Anyone found obstructing or disrupting healthcare operations anywhere in the state, under the pretext of industrial action, will be apprehended and prosecuted. It is criminal for anyone to obstruct health care workers from performing their legitimate duties in this period of emergency.
“Government is aware that the ill-conceived industrial action and blatant act of sabotage by JOHESU is sponsored by political detractors with an underlying intent to vandalize healthcare facilities in the state. Security agencies in the state have been fully briefed to ensure the continued protection of lives and property, using all legal means.”
But in their press release of July 15, the labour Chairmen of Akwa Ibom branch of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives; Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, and Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, among others, kicked against the statement by the state government, noting “It is quite unfortunate that Information Commissioner who ought to be the image maker of government can blatantly lie to the public.”
In their reaction entitled: RE: PRESS RELEASE- STRIKING JOHESU WORKERS WILL BE REPLACED IF… , the labour leaders advised their members “We, therefore, call on our members to ignore every propaganda and threat and to maintain the resolve to stay at home until the issues are met by Akwa Ibom State Government.”