IT seems that no year would pass without the healthcare professionals in the employ of the Lagos State Government going on strike for one reason or the other.
Yes indeed, workers’ strikes have become a worrisome staple all over the country. But the case of Lagos is unique given the frequency of their occurrence and the status of the state as the economic and population melting pot of the nation. When adversity sneezes in any sector of life in the state the entire country catches the flu.
The latest threat of strike was issued on Friday, April 6th 2012 when the Medical Guild served notice that unless the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) was fully implemented doctors in the employ of the state government would withdraw their services starting from Wednesday, April 11 to Friday April 13th 2012, a three-day warning strike.
If, however, the government had not responded to their demands, according to the Chairman of the Guild, Dr Olumuyiwa Odusote, the doctors would start another round of indefinite strikes. The doctors are accusing the government of insincerity in the implementation of the agreement signed in 2011 after a long-drawn strike. They are also unhappy with what they describe as “excessive taxation” on their income.
Not to be outdone, the state government is also threatening not to pay the doctors salaries for work not done. In a circular, the state’s Head of Service, Mr Adesegun Ogunlewe, reminded them of the provisions of the Trade Unions Act which spells out the no-work, no-pay rule of engagement. Government is increasingly frustrated by what it sees as the medical doctors’ union’s growing tendency to dictate their own terms of employment in contradiction to normal employer-employee relationships.
For instance, the doctors union wants students on housemanship to be paid salaries, while government insists that they should be paid housemanship allowances, as only those who have been given letters of employment are entitled to salaries. Government is also uncomfortable with the demands that newly employed consultants must be placed on Level 15 Step 5.
It would seem that the two sides have already dug in for a battle of wits and nerves. Experience has shown that whenever it begins this way, the strike, when it comes, is usually long-drawn with a heavy and grim toll wreaked on patients and those in need of medical services. Given the fact that majority of the people who need the services of public sector-employed medical professionals are usually the poor and low income groups in society, it is the poor masses that bear the brunt of this intransigence.
Surely, after this long history of quarrels the two sides should have found the formula to settle their differences amicably if they meant to do so. We are calling on the Lagos State Government to take the lead in boosting the level of trust between it and its workers, especially the medical professionals because of the importance of the work they do.
But more importantly, the doctors should apply more maturity and caution and desist from this impulsive tendency to down tools at the slightest provocation.
It is not good for their public image. They must remain faithful to their Hyppocratic Oath, which places high value on human life. Doctors should take the recourse to strike only at the most extreme provocation and quickly snap out of it once their point is made.
Enough of doctors strike in Lagos.