Health workers in federal teaching hospitals as well as federal medical centres across Nigeria called off their one week strike only after the government gave in to all their demands.
The workers, under the auspices of Joint Health Staff Union, JOHESU, had downed their tools on August 21 following the federal government's failure to accept their demands. They called off the strike after a 12-hour meeting with the federal government delegation on Tuesday.
In attendance at the meeting were Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu; the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu; and the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Bukar Aji; alongside representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and JOHESU.
The aggrieved workers include physiotherapists, medical laboratory scientists, radiographers, nurses, dental technologists, occupational therapists, health information officers, dental therapists, dieticians and other related professionals in the health sector except medical doctors.
Their grievances included the perceived wrongful constitution of a board of management of teaching hospitals; unfavourable retirement age; implementation of 2008 job evaluation report; promotion from CONHESS 14 to 15, as well as a perceived poorly constituted committee to see to harmony in the health sector.
Another complaint was the recently-announced Chairmanship of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, NMCN, which saw a medical doctor appointed to head the council.
When their demands were not met, JOHESU on July 22 issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement a recent favourable ruling of the National Industrial Court on the controversial issues. The union, which comprises several other trade unions in the health sector, proceeded on the indefinite strike.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties involved in the Tuesday's meeting and made available to PREMIUM TIMES, it was agreed that the government should correct the observed errors on the appointment of board members for federal teaching hospitals.
The boards of federal teaching hospitals had been constituted but not in compliance with the enabling statutes with respect to sections 2(1)(c) and 2(1)(f) of the University Teaching Hospitals Act of 2004.
Also, the government agreed that the appointment of a medical practitioner as Chairman of NMCN was done in error and would be rectified in good time. To achieve this, the ministers of labour and health, as well as the head of civil service would meet with President Goodluck Jonathan within 21 days. The negotiating parties are to reconvene on September 2 for further briefing on the outcome of the meeting with the president.
"I think as Minister of Health, that going by precedence, going by tradition and going by fairness and equity, since we have eligible nurses who can indeed be Chairperson or Chairman of Nursing and Midwifery Council, I think it should be a nurse.
"Those are some of the errors that sometimes can happen along the line. Surely, I believe, we gave our commitment yesterday that we will make amend as necessary" the Minister of Health stated.
With regards to the retirement age, it was agreed that the head of civil service of the federation should be allowed time to address the issue administratively and update the meeting on Monday September 2nd, 2013.
On the issue of promotion from CONHESS 14 to 15, though approval has been conveyed to some hospitals like the University College Hospital, Ibadan, for the promotion of some officers such as Medical Laboratory Scientists and Social Medical Works as director on CONHESS 15, this is yet to be fully implemented in many Tertiary Medical Institutions.
Consequently, it was agreed by all parties present at the meeting that the Federal Ministry of Health should direct the boards of various hospitals to carry out the contents of the circular accordingly.
Also, the letters of promotion of the officers at UCH would be released on or before September 4.
The federal government also agreed to implement the recent verdict by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria.