The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has revealed why resident doctors refused to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government with a view to ending their industrial action.
According to Ngige, the doctors had wanted him to put it in writing that the government would not enforce its ‘No work, no pay’ policy in their case, but he could no guarantee the fulfillment of their wish so they backed out of the MoU signing.
The Minister spoke when the Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions in Nigeria, under the leadership of Dr Sam Jaja, met with him in Abuja.
He stated that all the issues contained in the MoU, ranging from arrears to the consequential adjustment of the National Minimum Wage, Skipping Allowance, Bench fees among others have successfully been tackled.
So, the Minister described the ongoing strike as unjustifiable and unwarranted, saying that the implementation of the MoU which the doctors refused to sign on August 21 had even begun.
A press release by the spokesperson, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr Charles Akpan, quoted Ngige as saying during the meeting: “The resident doctors want a particular clause to be inserted in the agreement; that section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act should not apply to them; that we should insert in a Government agreement, that they should be paid for the period they are not at work. I’m being careful about this.
“This is the law and I will not lend myself to illegality, to state in the agreement that a group of Nigerians is above the law.
“But as a matter of fact, a clause in that agreement states clearly that nobody should be punished for participating or not participating in the strike.
‘So, what else do they want? They want me to put in writing that they are above the law. That “No Work, No Pay” should not apply to them. That “No Work, No Pay” is no more part of our law, despite the fact that I swore to uphold the constitution? This is notwithstanding that a clause in the agreement says that no one should be punished for any role in the strike.
“This is why they (resident doctors) refused to sign the MOU and call off the strike and not that the government has not substantially met their demands,” Ngige said.
Speaking earlier, Dr Sam Jaja expressed concern that the strike hasn’t been called off, adding that strike action by employees should be the last resort when every other effort has been exhausted in terms of finding a solution to any industrial dispute.
“When, for any little thing, you resort to disruption of services; it does not portray the country in a good light. It doesn’t also portray the profession in good light, most especially such a profession that has to do with the preservation of human lives.
‘It makes the doctors appear insensitive and that is not right. For whatever reason, I think we should nip it in the bud. That is what we as a Forum of Chairmen of Health Institutions of Nigeria are in for. We need to find a solution to this. It is not good for us and it is not good for them. I bet that as you are solving this problem, others are warming up to start theirs. We can’t allow them to continue. We must find a permanent solution.”
Recall that the President, National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, had said that, as medical doctors, they were not interested in crippling the nation’s health sector, but insisted that they could not sign the new MoU because of the introduction of an undisclosed clause in the agreement.
According to him, accepting the government’s new offer would have amounted to them paying for the government’s failure.