The Federal Government has revealed that negotiations are ongoing with stakeholders over the five-day warning strike embarked upon by members of the National Association of Resident Doctors on Wednesday.
While fielding questions from newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, the Director, Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Morenike Alex-Okoh, said the strike was of concern for the government.
“The situation with the doctors’ strike is of concern to the government and the negotiations have been ongoing.
“We will continue under the circumstances, so, I can’t give you any conclusive response now.
“However, government, the leadership of the ministry and relevant stakeholders are meeting to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,’’ she said.
NARD served the FG a notice FG on Tuesday, warning that it could not guarantee further industrial harmony should there be a failure to address issues raised before May 29.
NARD’s letter entitled, “Notice of Strike Action’’ was signed jointly by its National President, Dr. Innocent Orji and Secretary-General, Dr. Chikezie Kelechi.
They stated that NARD had issued a two-week ultimatum to the FG to resolve issues as contained in the ultimatum before its expiration on May 13.
The letter read in part, “Regrettably, the issues have remained unresolved despite several attempts by NARD to get the government to resolve them.
“Rising from her Extra-Ordinary Meeting on Monday, May 15, NARD’s National Executive Council resolved to embark on a five-day warning strike beginning on May 17.’’
The doctors are demanding an immediate increment in the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure to the tune of 200 per cent of the current gross salaries of doctors.
NARD is also demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Bill seeking to compel medical and dental graduates to serve compulsorily in Nigeria for five years before getting full licences to practise.
It also wants immediate domestication of the Medical Residency Training Act and a review of Hazard Allowance by state governments.
The PUNCH reports that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, had on Tuesday, relayed the FG’s warning to the association to shelve the strike.
He issued the warning shortly after receiving a letter of notification from the NARD executive on the planned strike.
In a statement signed by the Director of Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, Ngige said the planned strike was illegal.
“There is nothing like a warning strike. A strike is a strike. If they want to take that risk, the options are there. They have the right to strike. You can’t deny them that right.
“Their employer has another right under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, however, to withhold their pay for those five days.
“If the NARD has strike funds to pay its members for those five days, no problem.
“The health minister will instruct teaching hospitals to employ ad-hoc people for those five days and use the money of the people who went on strike to pay the ad-hoc doctors,’’ Ngige said.
He advised the doctors to avail themselves of the opportunity to dialogue with their employers, rather than embarking on a warning strike, which is unknown to the law.
NARD awaits FG’s call for negotiations
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, the President of NARD, Dr. Orji said that members were still awaiting the FG’s call for negotiations.
“I am still in my hotel room now and I have not received any call to come to the table to discuss the strike.
“We also heard that the government is planning a no-work-no-pay strategy, but our position is that it should resolve issues raised because that is the only way to avoid escalation.
“Issuing threats will definitely worsen the problem. If no-work-no-pay is implemented, our members will determine how we will handle it.
“Going by that route will escalate the problem because it means that government is not ready to address the issues we have raised and will rather give punitive measures.
“Our members will decide and give us further directives, but no one should blame us if they decide to escalate the strike,’’ he said.