By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja
The Federal Government has pledged proactive measures to forestall strike by doctors and other health workers through the review of the CONMESS and CONHESS salary structures.
The Minister of labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige made the commitment during a courtesy visit on him by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) today in Abuja.
The NMA which was led by its President , Dr. Uche Ojinmah, Secretary, Jude Onyekwere as well as the President of Nigerian Association Medical and Dental Academics, NAMDA, Nosa Orhue among others, had catalogued challenges facing doctors in Nigeria, especially the review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
Ojinmah said, “it is sad to tell you that the most pressing challenge facing Nigerian doctors is the review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure which has been overdue by eight years. We wrote to our parent ministry of Health on June 5 , 2022, seeking for a meeting , just as other previous national officers of NMA have written since 2014 for the same issue and without result.
“Recall that it is the 2009 Agreement that yielded CONMESS and we agreed with government that it would be reviewed in five years and that five years was up in 2014 and this 2022 . Nothing has been done about this . We wrote in June to the Ministry of Health to ask for discussion over this. The meetings they convened were all structured to fail.”
He regretted the inability of the officials of the Ministry of Health to resolve the lingering issue and therefore appealed to the Minister of Labour to take over the matter and ensure its speedy resolution before the general assembly of the NMA scheduled for the 11thof December 2022.
Commending the Minister for the registration of the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) which he said “has come to stay and heartily welcome by the NMA,” the association also urged the Minister to help maintain industrial harmony in the essential services where the NMA has jurisdiction.
“It will be highly appreciated if immediate and urgent actions are expedited by your ministry in addressing the concerns of the members of the NMA and her affiliates, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) as well as the out of court resolution of the dispute between Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics and the Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.”
He further called for social dialogue brokered by the standing committee, domiciled in the Ministry of Labour, in liaison with the Salaries , Income and Wages Commission, Federal Ministry of Finance to sort the issues prior to presentation to the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages.
In his response, the Minister noted that despite the prevailing economic challenges facing the nation, the Federal Government is committed to not just the review of CONMESS but also CONHESS to ensure stability in the nation’s health system.
He said that this trajectory informed his insistence during the recent negotiation with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) SSANU and NASU that any salary review that did not recognize agitations from other sector unions drawing from the federal treasury might be counterproductive.
He, however assured the NMA that the Ministry would swiftly liaise with the Ministry of Health with a view to taking over the matter to ensure an early resolution. The Minister however reminded the NMA , the consequences of the Ministry taking over conciliation of the matter.
“The bad shape of the economy does not mean the doctors or other health professional should not earn decent wages that can really take them home, so they can take care of their needs as medical practitioners.
“Therefore CONMESS and CONHESS to me, should be reviewed and I have done letter to the Ministry of Health . I have also noted in that instance that we don’t need to have a trade dispute notice before we do the review of these salary structures. So, please exercise restraint while this is resolved. My Ministry will do the needful. We are already taking proactive measures to forestall any strike.
“But I hope we are all aware that once my Ministry takes over the matter for conciliation, part of the encumbrances is that you won’t go on strike anymore because the matter has been apprehended in line with section 18 of the Trade Disputes Act. I have no doubt doctors are noble men and would abide by this .We as doctors must obey the labour laws .
“Of course, we know too that Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Acts on No Work, No Pay is very active now. It was not made by President Buhari or by his Minister. It is the law of the federation enacted in 2004“