It has come to the attention of the State Government that some doctors under the aegis of Medical Guild have commenced yet another strike action on account of the non-payment of their wages during the period of their previous strike.
It is pertinent to stress for public information that the said strike was an illegal action, just as the current one. On the previous occasion, the doctors went on what they called a “sympathy strike” at the request of their professional association, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) which then had a dispute with the Federal Government. They had no trade dispute with the State Government (their employer). It is also instructive to note that doctors in private employment, who are also members of the NMA, did not join the so-called “sympathy strike”.
It is a fact that those health workers who did not work during the stated period were not paid. This “no work no pay rule” is not just a policy of the State Government as alleged. It is in line with international employment practices and the Trade Disputes Act, a federal legislation, which is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria. For the avoidance of doubt, section 43(1)(a) of the Trade Disputes Act provides that:
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or any other law, where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or other remuneration for the period of the strike, and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.”
Apart from the demands of law, this provision also accords with common sense. It is noteworthy that the State Government pays salaries using taxpayers’ money. Using funds contributed by taxpayers to pay persons who deprived the same taxpayers of care and caused them untold suffering and death is not only in contravention of law, it further goes against the dictates of good conscience.
As if this abandonment of sick patients was not bad enough, it took place at a time of national emergency when the Ebola virus broke out in Lagos. It was foreign doctors and volunteers, that came to our aid to start the process of combating the virus in a commendable humanitarian gesture. It was therefore imperative that allowances be paid to them, rather than to doctors who chose to keep off their duty post during a period of such national health emergency despite several entreaties made to them
Also, the allegation that the Governor or his representatives refused to meet with the doctors over this dispute is false. The Governor did in fact meet with their leadership and that had been followed by several meetings with the Commissioner for Health, Commissioner for Special Duties and other State officials in relevant administrative positions right up to the last weekend.
It is therefore clear that conformity with a national law cannot form the basis of yet another strike. The current strike is as illegal as the former one and the same law still has to apply. The doctors are therefore advised to resume their respective duty positions while discussions with the State Government are ongoing.
Government is committed to the continuance of health services to its teeming masses and will do all in its power to ensure that public health institutions continue to function and ensuring the protection of health workers who are willing to work.
HON. COMMISSIONER FOR INFORMATION & STRATEGY
MARCH 16, 2015