By Sola Ogundipe
THE Lagos State Government has reiterated its resolve to continue to engage doctors in its employment in dialogue towards resolving issues bordering on their salaries, wages and general welfare.
â€œWe have not said we will not pay,â€ said State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris. â€œWhat we are saying is let us look at the matter of salaries and wages in totality.â€
Idris who spoke to the media last week on the spate of doctorsâ€™ strikes in the State avowed that despite being commited to resolving the issues in question, the State government would not react in what he described as a knee-jerk manner. â€œLet all parties come together and see how we can develop once a for all, a plan of action that will address all these wage issues,â€ he stated.
In an address entitled â€œOne Strike Too Manyâ€ Idris said while every professional body had a right to agitate for increase in salary, such agitation should be done within the proper context.
He said: â€œContrary to the impression being given, the State has always engaged striking doctors in dialogue and will continue to do so with the relevant groups, provided no threat or blackmail is involved. We have called the various groups for dialogue and we are always ready to dialogue on this matter in the overriding public interest.â€
Idris noted that it was unfortunate that the most rescent strike action was embarked upon by the Association of Resident Doctors (Lagos State Chapter) even when the State government was already implementing a salary structure and welfare package mutually agreed upon last year.
He recalled that some representatives of the aggrieved doctors had been co-opted into a committee comprising all stakeholders with a mandate to come up with a workable solution to permanently address the perrennial wage issue.
â€œThe agreement to implement the new salary package called CONMESS was reached between Federal government and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) at the Federal level without any involvement and/or negotiation with the various States. It is expected that the responses by the States will be as varied as their challenges are.â€
Further, Idris remarked that the huge health workforce in Lagos estimated at over 12,000 makes the burden of implementing the new salary in the State enormous, and not commensurate with that of the Federal government which has a lot of resources skewed in its favour.
â€œLast year when the isuue of strike came in, the State government set up a welfare package. By that package, there was salary increase of 39 percent across board.â€