Home EDITORIAL JOHESU strike and the fragile health sector

JOHESU strike and the fragile health sector

by News Echo
4 minutes read

This may not be the best of times for the leadership of this country. There are myriads of issues confronting Nigeria and its leaders. It is disturbing that with each passing day the problem keeps compounding and the leadership appears handicapped to provide any solution. With each passing day life ebbs away, the citizens groan, corrupt leadership smiles away, yet untapped resources abound while the nation becomes a laughing stock.

Monday the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) comprising the National Union of Allied Health Professionals, the Non-Academic Staff Union, Medical and Health Workers Union, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives and the Senior Staff Association of Research and Health Institutions, embarked on a strike to press home their demands. As expected this has paralyzed activities in our government owned hospitals.

According to the Unions president Josiah, the federal government has refused to adjust its salary and push same into the budget as well as payment of withheld April and May 2018 salary. There is also the issue of Covid-19 allowances. He frowned that they have allowed the government sufficient time on the issues and they failed to perform. The group appears to have lost confidence in the government respecting agreements.
In his words, “for two years now we have not been on strike and we have consistently been reminding the government and up until now that we have issued the ultimatum, and when we met them on Thursday the first thing they did was to threaten us with a court action”. He expressed readiness of his union to dialogue with the government.

While the strike is ongoing and on its third day other trade unions are also warming up to embark on their own strike resulting from the recent government actions increasing petroleum prices and electricity tariffs. The Trade Union Congress, TUC has also issued the federal government a 7 day strike notice even as the government and labour are already engaged in talks. Before the Johesu strike the ASUU was already on strike before the invasion of the Covid-19 and has vowed never to call it off until their demands are met.

Strike is an ill-wind that blows no good tidings. It is said that when two elephants suffer it is the grasses that suffer. We have had too many strikes in this country. A careful check will indicate that there is no week in this country that passes that we don’t have one group on strike in protest of one thing or another either at the federal or state level. Strike most often comes as a matter of last resort and is viewed as the greatest weapon of the trade unions.

It therefore means that strike or the use of coercion is the only language that the government understands. News Echo is at a loss that the government would fail to do what is expected of it until issues degenerate to the point it would begin to take worse situations before it can rise to the challenge. Why would the government allow situations get off hands every time before it can do the needful? How does one quantify the value of damages especially in terms of human lives lost within the 3 days that the action commenced?

Coming at a time the country is grappling with the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic is most uncharitable and unpatriotic on both sides of the warring parties. The health sector is a very critical sector of the country and requires priority attention. It cannot be justified that labour needs in this area is pending while public officials are neck deep in corruption sucking the country dry of the scarce resources that could help salvage situations in many areas.

We want to note that the government may have created so many ugly situations that are precipitating all of these issues. It cannot be a chance matter or coincidental that the various labour unions are slamming it with numerous protest actions. A good labourer they say deserves his wages. It is the labour that drives productivity in this country and whatever impacts it has implications for productivity.

The health sector is already in a state of comatose relatively speaking. The government is already challenged with the issues of inadequacy of manpower, inadequacy of drugs and other resources to meet the needs of the people. Strictly speaking it is in the worst of situation and allowing a strike action at this period might lead to its total collapse.

The government may need to take a holistic view of its labour relationships alongside other issues that are critical to the survival of the country. While we sympathize with it over dwindling revenues, we are convinced that if the government is able to reprioritize its spending and needs, stem corruption block leakages and encourage the exploration of other income sources, it can free up funds to meet the needs of labour.

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