The Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to pay arrears of hazard allowances owed its members.
The Association disclosed this in a communique signed by its Acting Chairman, Mr Kabir Mustapha, and Acting Secretary, Mr Joseph Ugwoke, after a two-day meeting in Calabar between Oct. 12 and 13.The association resolved that it could no longer guarantee continued services if its members were not paid all the arrears owed them within one week to avoid industrial crisis in the health sector.
They said despite writing severally to the Federal Government, the payment has been delayed, adding that government selectively paid four and five months in tranches to doctors while sidelining other health workers.
On the COVID-19 Special Inducement Allowance, the association urged the Federal Government to pay the balance of 40 per cent being two months owed its members.
“We demand the payment of 40 per cent balance of remaining two months to our members who were erroneously paid 10 per cent.
“Also, the association notes with dismay the rate at which health workers especially professionals are migrating out of the country for greener pasture.
“This is due to the poor condition surrounding our health facilities, no consumables for health workers to work with and a poor welfare packages,” they said.
The association used the opportunity to call on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, implement the Sept. 30, 2017 agreement on adjusting the Consolidated Health Salary Structure, (CONHESS).
It also urged government at all levels to make remittances of deducted but unremitted funds to the unions and cooperatives without further delay and remit third party deductions forthwith.
The Abia chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) says the State Government commenced the implementation of the N30,000 minimum wage in 2019. The state Chairman of the union, Mr Uchenna Obigwe, said this at a newsbriefing in Umuahia on Saturday.
Obigwe spoke in the wake of a recent media report in which the national leadership of NLC allegedly listed Abia as one of the states that had yet to implement the minimum wage.
He said: “Abia Government in 2019, in conjunction with the organised labour, set up a Minimum Wage Committee with the then State Chairman of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council, Chris Okoro, as the Chairman.
“The committee sat severally and midwifed the N30,000 minimum wage for the state, which by all ramifications was and is still the best in the South-East. “What Ebonyi workers are presently taking is what Abia workers took as minimum wage in 2011 and Anambra only added N3,000 to its 2011 minimum wage.
“Enugu State just added N4,000 to its 2011 minimum wage and just recently started paying 60 per cent CONHESS and CONMESS to its health workers in 2021. “Imo has yet to do anything on the issue of 2019 minimum wage of N30,000. “Abia Government has fully implemented the CONHESS and CONMESS to health workers.
“It is therefore surprising and preposterous to say that Abia has not implemented the 2019 minimum wage.
” Obigwe, therefore, urged the national leadership of NLC “to encourage Abia Government to do more for its workers, instead of presenting wrong information about the state”.
Mrs Josephine Bassey, Chairperson of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) Cross River Chapter, has called on government to save the nation’s health system from impending collapse due to dearth of nurses.
Bassey made the appeal on Wednesday in Calabar at the 2022 Nurses’ Week Celebration in Cross River with the theme, “Nurses, a Voice to Lead: Invest in Nursing and Respect Rights to Secure Global Health.
”The chairperson said although nurses played a critical role in primary health care delivery, often being the first and only health professional a patient might see, the challenging healthcare situation in the nation was causing massive brain drain.
She said the nurses could no longer keep quiet to the imminent anomalies bedevilling the system and would continue to scream until things were done right especially in Cross River and other states.
“How can a minute number of 847 nurses and midwives employed by Cross River government and 83 in our 18 Local government areas, man and provide such a care that can measure towards health security?
”How can a profession whose population was ageing be churning out professionals yearly but not employing them, guarantee global health security?
” She queried.
While calling on government at all levels to employ nurses and midwives, she appealed for the three years of studentship counted for 270 nurses currently in the state’s service to be waived.
She said this was to keep them to mentor the eventual new employees in the practice because by 2023, over 50 per cent of the current nursing work-force would retire from service in Cross River.
She added that to curtail brain drain of nurses in the nation, the working environment had to be conducive, devoid of harassments and the implementation of 100 per cent Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) in states.
On his part, National President of NANNM, Mrichael Nnachi, said the national leadership was committed to the improvement of nurses’ welfare and had secured a proper entry point for graduate nurses in a joint effort by relevant stakeholders.
Represented by Ms Mercy Lenka, National Treasurer of NANNM, he called on nurses in the nation to take advantage of the sponsorship of the Association to further their education to Masters and Doctorate levels.
Nnachi also used the opportunity to call on all nurses to shun apathy and vote in the forthcoming 2023 general elections and the association’s unit election for credible leaders in the nation and association.
Similarly, Mr. Ben Ukpepi, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Cross River Council, said the efforts of nurses in the health sector could not be overemphasised, adding that without nurses there would be no hospitals.
He added that the union was pushing for the state government to invest in nurses so that hospitals in the state would not be empty in the nearest future.
The members of staff of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) on Wednesday said they would embarked on an indefinite strike over the non-implementation of a new salary structure.
The workers under auspices of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), had on Tuesday commenced a 3-days warning strike over their demands The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the workers vowed never to return to work until their demands were met.
The Secretary of the union, Mr Udeme Umanah, who spoke on behalf of the union, told the News Agency of Nigeria that the warning strike was for three days.
Umanah said that the workers decided to embark on the strike due to failure of the FCT administration to implement the new salary structures for AEPB after the expiration of several ultimatums.
He said that if nothing was done after the three day warning strike the union would embark on an indefinite strike.
NAN also reports that the workers also barricaded the board`s headquarters and vowed never to return to work until their needs were met.
The workers carried placard with various inscriptions like: “Pay us our newly approved salary.
It is our right, not a privilege, we are tired of promises’’.
Umanah said that the new salary structure had been approved since 2019 by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammed Bello, but was yet to be implemented by the management.
He said that the board was an autonomous agency established under its Acts of 1997, adding that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) wanted the board to be a department under the administration.
“The presidential committee approved the same salary structures as well as the National Salary and Income Wages Commission, which was forwarded to FCTA in 2021. “They commence Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) from January 2020. The Health, Agriculture, Social Development Secretariat and Federal Capital Territory Internal Revenue Service (FCT-IRS) earn different salary structures.
“So, the union gave the administration 21- day notice to implement the salary structure, nothing happen, we gave them another seven days and then finally, we gave them the last three days notice.
“Nothing also was done.
So, it was after the expiration of the three days notice that the minister called us for a meeting and agreed to implement the salary structures.
“The minister then pleaded that we should not embark on strike, that we should give the administration two weeks to sort everything out,’’ he said.
Umanah said that the two weeks’ notice agreed at the meeting with the minister has ended and the administration had refused to implement the salary structure.
“We decided to go for the three day warning strike, which will be ending on Aug. 18, we are still waiting for them to commence the implementation.
“So, after Aug. 18,.
and nothing happened we will now proceed on an indefinite strike’’ he said.
The Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Lagos State Council, has called on the Federal Government to fulfill its agreement with health workers over payment of allowances.
The Coordinating Chairman of SSAUTHRIAI, Mr Omoniyi Olalekan, made the call during a conference organised by the association on Wednesday in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the union carried out a peaceful protest to express their feelings and grievances over unpaid allowances.
The health workers displayed different placards that described their demands from government which included the implementation of new hazard allowance, COVID-19 inducement allowance and CONHESS adjustment.
Olalekan, also the Chairman, Senior Staff Association of University Teaching Hospitals, Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital Yaba, said that an agreement was signed with the government in April 2020 for the payment of COVID-19 inducement allowance.
He explained that government agreed to pay health workers in teaching hospitals 50 per cent of their basic salary, while 40 per cent be paid to those in specialist hospitals as Covid-19 inducement allowance.
According to him, the allowance payment is expected to cover for three months- April, May and June 2020. “But when it was time for payment, the government came up with its magic by categorising some of our members as non- essential workers and 10 per cent was paid to them.
“Series of meetings with the Federal Government was held where the Minister of Labour agreed that the 10 per cent was paid in error and agreed to pay the remaining balance of 30 per cent.
“The 30 per cent was paid for just one month and up till now – it is more than a year now, and nothing has been done.
“Both the remaining two months of 40 per cent due for health workers in teaching hospitals and 30% for the specialist hospitals has not been paid.
“The government is taking our patience for granted.
“That’s why we are using this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to fulfill the agreement and do the needful, if some of these issues are not addressed, we can not guarantee industrial harmony in the health sector.
” According to him, senior staff in the health sector include nurses, professionals and majority of the health workers.
“We work in health domain and deals with lives, as a result, we may not want to go on strike because many lives will be affected.
“But if nothing is done, we may have no option than to give ultimatum and once the senior staff decides to go on strike, the whole hospital is empty and nothing will bring us back until that money is paid,” Olalekan said.
Also speaking, the former Chairman of Health Sector Trustee of SSAUTHRIAI, Mr Adegoke Kehinde, called for the implementation of the new hazard allowance for health workers.
Kehinde, said that payment of the harzard allowance was supposed to have started on January 2021, but has not been implemented till date.
According to him, when arrears accumulate for too long, it becomes difficult for government pay.
He added that a seven-man committee was set up in October 2021 to fine-tune the CONHESS adjustment, saying that till now, nothing has been heard.
“The truth is that, the moment we issue an ultimatum and day it expires, action will start and we know we are in essential services that deals with lives and won’t want to lose any of our patients.
“But the fact that we’re in essential services does not mean we can not express our grievances – it is our right.
“The agreement that the government signed was not done in duress; it was under peaceful atmosphere and the three parties – the government, the union and those that meditate the process reach the agreement.
“We are pleading; let the government do the needful before we issue an ultimatum.
But if government fails to act, then, another sector – the health sector nationwide is going to shutdown.
“And what is currently happening in the education sector will be a child play, the health sector’s will not be a joke,” he said.
The immediate past chairman, Senior Staff Association, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Mr Bitrus Nelson, urged the Federal Government to address the issue in order not to allowed crisis in the economy to compound.
Nelson, also a Veteran of SSAUTHRIAI, sympathised with the education sector that had been down for over six months, but insisted that the government listen to the health workers.
He said, “We have enough in our hands already, so the government should not allow this to compound again.
“Imgine the current situation of the economy – the education sector is down, the security situation is bad and the health comes to join, I think our hands will be too full.
“If citizens should start having challenges accessing healthcare, people will start dying and before you know it, the total economy is going to collapse and is the citizens that will suffer it.
” Nelson, however, urged members of the association to continue to exercise some level of restraints as they wait for the government to do the needful.
NANNM Chairman, Lagos Council Olurotimi Awojide made the disclosure at a press conference on Friday in Lagos.
He said the warning strike was to protest poor pay and poor working conditions in the Lagos health sector.
Awojide said the strike was also intended to send a clear message to stakeholders that nurses would no longer continue to provide care in a way where their health and safety, and that of their patients, were at risk.
“Nurses will no longer bear the burden of a poorly resourced health care system.
“We ask the public to view this strike as a fight to improve their care and also as a fight to ensure that the health sector is in a better position to serve them.
"All of the requests that we have made to the state government are to ensure that more nurses are not frustrated that they can lead them to leave the service," he said.
According to him, the meeting of the association's state executive council, held on December 29, 2021, evaluated the many challenges of nurses and all the unsolved problems before the government.
“The association has involved the government on several occasions on these issues without the desired rate of result.
"In our estimation, the state government has yet to fully accept how incredibly challenging the situation in the healthcare sector has been for our members, especially since 2020," he said.
Awojide noted that the continued desertion of nurses to foreign countries had led to a severe shortage of staff in health facilities.
According to him, 496 nurses left the service of the State Health Service Commission from 2019 to 2021, with less than 15 percent due to legal retirement.
“For context, the commission has only about 2,350 nurses.
“More than 200 nurses left the service of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in the same period.
"More than 80 have left the Primary Health Care Board from 2020 to date, thus leaving medical care with 700 nurses and midwives," he said.
Awojide noted that the replacement policy upon leaving state government had become ineffective due to the inability to find replacements easily, adding that nurses were critical assets.
"Of the 500 vacancies approved for hiring by the governor for the health services commission recently, fewer than 300 turned up, especially in a country with an unemployment rate of 33.2 percent," he said.
The NANNM President noted that the mass exodus had negatively affected the quality of care, leading to an increase in workload and the requirement for functional flexibility of nurses without compensation.
According to him, the members are getting sick and developing chronic illnesses.
“A reduced capacity in health personnel means a reduced capacity to contain and combat new waves of pandemics and outbreaks.
"A poor retention rate only guarantees paralyzed responses to new waves of pandemics for the foreseeable future," he said.
Awojide noted that the association's requests to the state government included: solving the shortage of nurses and midwives and maintaining incentives to halt the turnover rate.
Others, he said, were the adequate consolidation of the CONHESS Salary Structure and the improvement of working conditions.