The National President, National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige

Strike: States consider no-work-no-pay policy, may stop doctors’ salaries

…Ekiti, Enugu not withholding salaries – Doctors

… Imo owes doctors six months’ salaries

Striking resident doctors have called the Federal Government’s bluff for invoking the no-work-no-pay policy by stopping their salaries.

However, there were indications that states across the country might also adopt the Federal Government policy by equally denying the protesting doctors their salaries.

But the doctors said rather than being intimidated by the Federal Government’s action and indications that states might also join in the action, the development had further strengthened their resolve to persist  until their demands were met.

The resident doctors spoke in separate interviews on Friday.

The Vice President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Adejo Arome, said rather than ending the strike, government’s decision to implement the no-work-no-pay policy had further ignited the fight for freedom among resident doctors.

Arome alleged that the striking doctors were aware that the government did not care about their welfare, adding that the action of the government had made the doctors more united.

He said the doctors were happy that the threat of no-work-no-pay had come to an end with the government’s action.

He said the government had always owed the striking doctors, wondering why it refused to take action or engage them (striking doctors) immediately they went on strike.

Arome said, “We know they don’t care about us. We also do not care again. We are not even worried because, for the first time in the history of Nigerian doctors, we are united.

“At this point, we are saying enough is enough. Everybody is tired and we have to speak up. Enough of the threat of no-work-no-pay by the government.

“You didn’t pay for four, five months; we begged you and you didn’t answer, all of a sudden when we went on strike, instead of you to call us in the first two days, you did nothing.

“You waited till the 20th (day) simply because you had plans. We know what they are doing. We know their plans and we are resolute.

“They will pay this August salary and they will also pay the arrears and then migrate our members to the IPPIS platform. We will not return until they do these things.”

The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said on Thursday that there was no quick fix to the doctors’ demands.

He also identified funding as being responsible for the numerous challenges facing the health sector in Nigeria.

The minister, who is also a medical doctor, spoke during a meeting of state commissioners for health and federal MDAs and development partners in Abuja.

He had said, “Basically, it has to do with the need for us to increase funding to the health sector because when you look at the challenges in the health sector, the basic underlying factor is funding.

“Even if you have the appropriate and adequate number of human resources in the healthcare sector, you need to take care of emoluments, incentives and other things and you need funding. That is why we need to find ways of increasing funding in the health sector.”

Mamora also appealed to striking resident doctors to return to work and added that in the civil service, there was no such thing as a “quick fix.”

The NARD President, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, also said members of the association were ready for the strike and that stopping their salaries would not dampen their morale.

He said he was aware that state institutions had also invoked the no-work-no-pay policy adopted by the Federal Government.

He, however, said the association’s members were not moved by the development.

The Federal Government had earlier written to Chief Medical Directors and Managing Directors of federal tertiary hospitals, asking them to begin the implementation of no-work, no-pay policy concerning the striking doctors.

The government’s directive was contained in a letter dated August 26, 2021, signed by the Director of Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi.

The letter was titled “Application of Section 43(1) (A) of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8, Law of the Federation of Nigeria (LGN) 2004 (no work no pay) partly.”

It read, “The ministry is in receipt of the letter from the Ministry of Labour and Employment informing the ministry of the laws governing the ongoing strike by the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and the need to immediately apply the provisions of the Section 43 (1) (a) of the Trade Dispute Act on ‘special provision with respect to payment of wages during strike and lockouts’ known in labour parlance as no-work-no-pay with effect from Monday, August 2, 2021, when the strike was commenced by NARD members.

“Consequently on the above, I am directed to inform you to commence the implementation of the no-work, no-pay policy on the striking doctors including other workers that may embark on strike consequently.”

The letter said the directive was in line with Section 43 (1) (a) of the trade dispute act which inter alia states “where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or remuneration for the period of the strike.”

The government directed the CMDs to compute the financial implications of the no-work-no-pay from the salaries of resident doctors and any other health worker that participated in the strike.

But the striking doctors, according to the president of their association, said they were not perturbed with the directive, even when states had allegedly copied the Federal Government’s policy.

Okhuaihesuyi said that two weeks after the Federal Government signed Memorandum of Understanding with the association and the Nigeria Medical Association, nothing had been achieved.

He said “All states institutions have also given directives for the no-work-no-pay policy.

“Our members are not shaken by this. In fact, it has made them more determined to go on with the strike.

“It is over two weeks since the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and since then, nothing has been done.  Our members are willing to go all the way.”

Another resident doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said he would rather starve than let the government win the ‘fight.’

He said, “We have reached the point that we would rather starve than let the government win this time round.

“States owe salaries. Imo owes us 15 months salaries; Abia owes 20 months; Ondo pays 50 per cent; Anambra pays 70 per cent. So, it is that bad.

“For me, I am already used to it and I know some other colleagues who are also determined.

“The government sees this as a punishment but the truth is this punishment is not new. They have always owed us even when there was no no-work-no-pay policy.”

Nonetheless, it was difficult to get the actual situation across the county concerning the alleged implementation of the no-work-no-pay policy by states as claimed by the resident doctors.

However, there were claims that some states had started implementing the policy.

In Akwa Ibom State, the chairman of Association of the Resident Doctors, Dr Ekemimi Udoh, said that no-work-no-pay implementation had commenced in the state.

Udoh, who said doctors were not deterred by such implementation, however, lamented that some of their members worked in January, February and March without payment only for the government to enforce the implementation when they decided to embark on strike.

He said, “We have not received our August salary yet, so it means that implementation has been effected. That is the situation now. We should have received August salary by now (if the no-work-no-pay policy had not been implemented) but we have not received it.

“We have members who worked in January, February and March, they did not get their salaries, only for us to down tool and they want to implement no-work-no-pay. What about the work we have done and we were not paid?  It’s not good, but we’re not deterred by that.”

On its part, the Ondo State Government said it would not take issues with the resident doctors over the issue of percentage salary payment or total stoppage of doctors’ salaries.

The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, stated this in his reaction to the allegations made by the doctors.

He said, “There is no time limit to engagements, whether at the level of industrial or political disputes. We won’t take issues with them because it is believed that all and sundry are aware of the prevailing challenges that are not peculiar to Ondo State.”

In Katsina State, investigations showed that August salary had  yet to be paid to civil servants in the state, but the situation in Kano State was not clear.

In Katsina, two members of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the development that August salary had yet to be paid in the state.

One of the ARD members said, “As we are discussing, we have yet to receive alerts for August salary. Although, virtually all members of staff have not too. But you can contact the President (ARD) for clarification.”

The ARD President at the Federal Medical Centre, Dr Salihu Bolakale, could not be reached for comments as his telephone lines were not reachable.

The SMS sent to his telephone line on the development had also yet to be replied as of press time.

In Kano, calls made to the number of the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Ibrahim Tsanyawa, were not answered.

But when contacted, the Public Relations Officer in the ministry, Hadiza Namadi, said she was not competent to speak on the issue and referred the media to the Public Relations Officer of the State Hospital Management Board, Ibrahim Abdullahi.

Abdullahi also said he was not aware of the development.

“I don’t have information or details on the issue you raised. Therefore, I cannot confirm or deny it. I need to know the situation of things before making any comment,” he said.

‘Imo owes us six months’ salaries’

The Imo State government on Friday denied that it owed resident doctors in the state 15 months arrears of salaries.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, told one of our correspondents in Owerri that it was not also untrue that the state government didn’t care about the state’s healthcare system.

The commissioner, who could not state how many months the state government owed  the striking resident doctors, said that the government was committed to providing adequate healthcare to the people of the state.

Emelumba said, “It is not true that we owe Resident Doctors 15 months arrears of salaries. It is not true that the state government does not care about the healthcare of its citizens. That report couldn’t be true because we have revived Imo State University Teaching hospital in Orlu.”

But the President of Association of Resident Doctors at IMSUTH in Orlu, Edward Una, confirmed that the state government owed  the striking doctors six months’ salaries.

Una, however, also said the state government hadn’t implemented no-work-no – pay policy in the state for the striking doctors.

He said, “We are being owed six months of salaries. They are July, August, and September of 2019. Then, we have also not been paid for the months of January, February and April of 2021.

“Then, we got incomplete salaries in November and December, 2020, and March and May 2021 as well. They are still paying us with 2011 salary schedules. There is no no-work- no-pay policy yet. We received our salaries in June and July but we have not been paid for August.”

Resident doctors in Ekiti and Enugu states said the two states had yet to implement no-work-on-pay policy on the striking doctors in the state teaching hospitals.

The chairman, Enugu State branch of Nigerian Medical Association, J.O.T Onyia, told one of our correspondents that the state had not implemented the policy.

Efforts to get the position of ARD Enugu State Teaching Hospital, Parklane, through its chairman, Dr Chima Edeoga, were unsuccessful as he did not answer his calls.

Also the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Ikechukwu Obi, didn’t pick  calls  made to his mobile.

In his reaction, the President, NARD Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Dr Olaniyi Olaoye, said Ekiti State Government was not applying the ‘no-work, no-pay rule’ to the striking doctors.

Olaoye said, “The ‘no-work-no-pay rule’ is applicable for those working with the Federal Government. Ekiti State Government is not implementing it.”

The state governor had on Tuesday announced that “payment of 100 per cent subvention to Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital has been restored.”

The slash in the subvention to the institution was principal among reasons the resident doctors in the institution went on strike even before the ongoing NARD nationwide strike. – Punch.

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