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Health workers suspend strike

By  Funmi Komolafe, Sola Ogundipe,  Victor Ahiuma- Young & Dayo Adesulu
Patients may return to the hospitals this morning as the unions have suspended their one week old strike.
Post offices, radio stations and the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), are also to resume work today as the striking unions yesterday  evening called off the strike  following a confirmation that the Federal Government has commenced the payment of 50 per cent of the arrears owed its employees.

However, the remaining 50 per cent would be included in the 2010 budget.
The suspension of the strike followed a meeting of the unions with the Senate Committee on Information with the Minister of Labour, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode,  in attendance.

The General Secretary of the Medical and Health Workers Union, Mr. Marcus Omokhuale, said the union decided to call off the strike after it confirmed that accounts of its members were being credited.

He said: “We met with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator Ayogu Eze and the Minister of Labour, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode.

“Having confirmed that the payment has commenced, we decided to suspend the strike.”

Meanwhile, the SGF, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed, is to inaugurate the tripartite committee to negotiate a new national minimum wage which is to be chaired by a former Chief Justice, Justice Alfa Belgore, in Abuja today.

Labour and Private Employers are represented in the committee.

As at yesterday, the post offices nation wide were still under lock and key as employees remained on strike .  The News Agency of Nigeria was also out of service.

The Lagos chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria , Lagos state branch, Pharm.  Lanre Familusi called on government to establish a general salary scale for all workers in the public sector.

Also the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU), Prof.  Awuzie Ukachukwu said the strike would continue because pay rise is not the only issue   which his union and the Senior Staff Association of University ( SSANU) are demanding.

He said Government cannot jettison the agreement reached with ASUU “ we cannot succumb to this trivial order.  They should have invited us to a round table where we can reach a compromise rather than deciding what to do themselves”.

Also, Professor Funmi Adewumi , dean of the College of Business and Social Sciences, Crawford  University faulted government’s pronouncement on the strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU).

HE said, during negotiation when there is a disagreement on any issue, the proper thing to do is  “ to refer such back to the negotiating team and not take a unilateral decision.   This is precisely where the federal government got it wrong.  It is a fundamental breach of principle and procedure. Wittingly or unwittingly, the federal government has failed to use the collective bargaining process to resolve disagreements arising from the employment”.

A Lagos based lawyer, Mr. Tunji Adeseye called on the federal government to convene an education summit to take a comprehensive look at the education sector.

He however commended the education minister, Dr. Sam Egwu for his willingness to dialogue with ASUU.

Barrister Adeseye said, “ the outcome of such education summit which necessarily would have an industrial relations content, will surely succeed in nipping in the bud, any deleterious  strike action

that would become elongated as to be regarded as an indefinite strike”.

Striking ASUU members got support from the Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association which called for support for the strike as a way of saving our educational system from total collapse.

Pharm.  Lanre Famulusi said, “ it is most unfortunate that government has continually denied workers their legitimate entitlements for over two years now, when these workers are familiar with tales of how politicians in government receive jumbo pay as and when due”.

He said the threat of a looming strike by doctors under the aegis of Nigeria Medical Association ( NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors ( NARD) to embark on strike if the Medical Salary Scale ( MSS) is not implemented has grown louder in the last few months because doctors have suddenly found new-day collaborators who can facilitate their agitations in the leadership of the ministry of health.

The pharmacist faulted the demands of the doctors on the ground that the economically inclined problems affect all workers in Nigeria and not the health sector alone.


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