Fed Govt, striking doctors’ meeting ends in stalemate
The Federal Government and officials of the striking National Association of Resident doctors (NARD) returned to the negotiation table yesterday to find solutions to the union’s ongoing strike, which is on the ninth day today.
But both sides could not reach a truce last night, after hours of deliberations.
Speaking with The Nation last night, NARD President Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi said: “We deliberated on some of the issues, although no headway yet. We continue the meeting by 11 a.m tomorrow (today). No resolutions yet. Hopefully, we will reach a resolution to move the Health sector forward.”
At a media briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said: “We are working on the doctors’ strike. Unfortunately, it is the third one this year. I just came from the meeting, which was being brokered by the National Assembly.
“The House Committee on Health is, right now as we speak, meeting with the Budget Office, the Ministry of Health, other agencies of the Federal Government, and the resident doctors, to try and resolve the issues that are raised.”
The Federal Government had pleaded with striking resident doctors to suspend their action and return to the negotiation table.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), who spoke yesterday in Abuja, explained that most of the agreements the past governments signed with workers were practically unworkable.
He conceded that it is the responsibility of the government to live up to the agreements it signed with workers.
Keyamo spoke at a three-day capacity strengthening workshop on advocacy and communication for women cooperatives from “Nigeria for Women” project states organised by the Development Research and Project Centre (DRPC) and sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.
He said: “I think government should live up to its responsibilities to workers. Agreements that are signed should be respected. Most of these agreements we inherited. It’s because in the past, it used to be that many governments had to enter into agreements that were perhaps not workable, just because they wanted to get over the problem.”
“So, they acted in bad faith with labour unions. That, of course, is not acceptable at all. But if you get into an agreement with workers, it is the bonding duty of government to also respect that agreement.
“The only thing is the procedure for airing your grievances. If, for instance, like we do in the Ministry of Labour, your strike is apprehended, we in labour relations know the strike is not a war; it is to instigate dialogue. The aim of labour conflicts is to instigate dialogue.
“So, once the Labour Ministry apprehends a strike, we appeal to workers to suspend the strike. We in the Labour Ministry are not the ones causing the strike; we are just conciliators. Please, take note of that today.
“To the health workers, the problem is the Ministry of Health. We are the ones who try to make peace at the Ministry of Labour. But once we know that a strike has been declared, we quickly apprehend the strike by calling them immediately to the round table. I wanted to say that my colleague and I never abdicate the responsibility to immediately intervene.
“So, we appeal to the health workers, especially at this time when we have the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19, we should not have a situation where health workers are going on strike. It’s an appeal to the health workers to please look at it from this angle.
“Somebody made a point that the intention was to put those in power under pressure by going on strike. This is a miscalculation because these are people who have the capacity to take their children abroad for treatment. Most times, it is the masses like me and you that suffer. So, it is an appeal that the doctors should please consider their strike on these grounds. Once we apprehend the strike, we will go back to the negotiation table. So, please, that is our appeal.”
Director General of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Isah Aremu, called for urgent reforms in the Industrial sector to prevent actions.
The senior labour leader said a delay in the payment of salary was like robbery, adding that resident doctors should call off their strike.
“We demand for urgent reforms in the Industrial sector to prevent actions. Delayed payment of salary is like robbery; it’s just like an open-ended indefinite industrial action that leads to death, especially at this period of COVID-19 and cholera outbreak. It is not good,” he said.