FG Concludes Plans to Dismiss Striking JOHESU Members as Court Takes Over Negotiation

The Federal Government may have concluded plans to lay off striking members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).
Towards the actualisation of the plan, it was gathered that the Federal Government has directed governing boards of government-owned hospitals to invoke the provisions of Public Service Rule 030413 on the workers for failing to report for duty.
The government also instructed the governing boards to restore services in their various hospitals with immediate effect, saying nobody has the right to shut down any government hospital.
The Nation gathered that Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole gave the directive at an emergency meeting with chief medical directors and medical directors of government owned hospitals and their governing boards.
The public service rule 030413 reads: “Any officers who absent himself/herself from duty or travels out from Nigeria without leave, renders himself/herself liable to be dismissed from service and the onus shall rest on him/her to show that the circumstances do not justify the position of the full penalty”.
The public service rule consider the action referred to by the minister as serious misconduct, which can lead to dismissal from service if proven.
Sources told The Nation that the government may also be working toward proscribing JOHESU, which is made up of five allied professional unions. They constitute about 98 per cent of staff of the hospitals.
The health minister was said to have told the governing boards that anyone, who fails to resume work should be considered to have absconded from duty without leave, which is a serious misconduct in line with the Public Service rule 030413.
Director, Media and Public Relations in the Ministry of Health Mrs. Boade Akinola quoted the minister as saying that the chief executives not willing to keep the services running should be suspended and be replaced with another officer in acting capacity.
The statement said the minister’s directive was given at an emergency meeting with the CMDs/MDs of tertiary hospitals on Monday, where the impact of the ongoing strike on health services in government hospitals was reviewed.
On the strike, Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige said he has been restraining the Ministry of Health from engaging supporting staff to fill the vacancies created by the strike.
He noted that he may not be able to restrain them for too long.
Ngige said: “They are on essential services and ILO has conditionalities for workers on essential services. They are not supposed to go on strike. ILO also has provision, which states that if workers on essential services go on strike, the employer must be protected. They are allowed to deny them payment for the period they are away and employ advocate staff to fill the vacancies. I have pleaded and pleaded.
“They know these laws because they are very vast. We have been begging. These people in JOHESU are Nigerians. If we terminate their appointments and ask new employees to come, you will see over one million applications to fill those vacancies because there are qualified Nigerians outside there.
“But I have restrained the Health Ministry for some time now. I don’t even know for how long I can restrain them. In doing my restrain, I am guided by the fact that I know that the doctors alone cannot handle the health services. I know that because I am a doctor.
“I also know that the doctors are not conducting themselves in a very dignified way in this negotiation. Why should they be putting their mouth and interloping? It is in the Labour laws that they should not interfere in what is happening to another union. This is the situation with JOHESU and the ongoing strike.”
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Court has taken over mediation in the dispute with a view to ensuring an amicable settlement of the dispute.
The court’s presiding judge, Babatunde Adejumo, however, asked the striking health workers to first go and obey the earlier ruling of the court by returning to work, while the process of mediation will resume.
However, JOHESU asked the court to give it till Friday, June 1, 2018 to meet with their members and inform them of the court’s decision.
An NGO, the Incorporated Trustees of the Kingdom Human Rights Foundation (KHRFI), had obtained a court order against JOHESU mandating it to suspend their industrial action on May 21, 2018.
The NGO had also filed a contempt proceeding against JOHESU, which was to be decided Wednesday, but the judge ruled that in the interest of the suffering masses, who need medical services, he would refer the case to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Division of the court to mediate.
He directed that the Minister of Labour and Employment and the Minister of Health to appoint representation to the ADR team, who will mediate and ensure an amicable resolution.
At the time of this report, JOHESU leaders were meeting to decide on the next line of action, but there are indications that the ongoing strike may be suspended to give the National Industrial Court the chance to mediate.

Author: News Editor

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