Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have commenced an indefinite strike over Federal Government’s failure to adjust the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) for health workers, as was done with the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) for physicians.
Consequently, the unions directed members in federal health institutions nationwide to withdraw their services indefinitely, beginning yesterday.
The unions demanded immediate payment of omissions and shortfalls in the COVID-19 hazard allowances of affected health workers in federal health institutions. They also sought recognition of health workers in non-core hospital facilities in payment of the hazard allowance.
They demanded speedy implementation of increase in retirement age from 60 to 65 years, and 70 years for consultants in the health professions.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, yesterday, Vice Chairman of JOHESU, Dr. Ogbonna Chimela, said the strike became necessary due to nonchalance, bias and lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Ministry of Health and resolution reached at the expanded National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of JOHESU, held on Monday, May 8, 2023.
He said the unions were compelled to take the action to highlight major issues, such as wage and benefits of non-physician health professionals and workers and outstanding payment of allowances.
Chimela said the unions had shown patriotism in the last four years by not embarking on any industrial action, although their counterparts, like Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), downed tools several times during the lifetime of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He maintained that the mode of payment for all health workers in Nigeria is CONHESS, while physicians are on CONMESS. But as at 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding at the inception of the two salary structures, and subsequent and collective bargaining agreement between the Federal Government and JOHESU, established that once there is an adjustment in one structure, the other should also be adjusted.
He decried social injustice and discriminatory adjustment by the Federal Ministry of Health in favour of physicians and to the disadvantage of other health workers.
Also, activities were paralysed at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), yesterday, as members of JOHESU joined colleagues across the nation in the strike.
The branch chairman, Biodun Ogunkuade, led other executive members out as early as 10:00 a.m., picketing the offices of some members who tried to evade the strike order.