The Nigerian Government says it will make the final decision on the new hazard allowance for health workers in the country.
The government says it has also directed the health workers who had issued trade dispute notices to withdraw the strike notices immediately.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige stated this on Thursday in Abuja after a meeting of the Presidential Committee on Salaries, relevant Federal Government stakeholders, and health sector professional associations and trade unions.
The Minister said that the government side allowed enough time for the two big bodies of the health unions and professionals, the Nigerian Medical Association NMA and the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) to harmonize their different positions on the hazard allowance, but they were not able to do so.
He said the matter would be taken back to the National Salaries, Wages and Incomes Commission NSWIC, and the Presidential Committee on Salaries to decide on the new hazard allowance for health professionals and workers.
According to him, the Government was treading cautiously in order not to be seen as trying to stampede the health workers since the matter concerns money.
“We would have separated them into JOHESU and NMA but that will give us much problem in terms of the implementation of whatever we agree on.
“So, we are taking them jointly and it is yielding fruits now. The two big bodies have given their final positions. The Government has taken its final positions back. We have also allowed them time to see if they can discuss among themselves like they did just before COVID-19 and we came out with COVID-19 allowance.”
“We have given them that time to see if they can meet and harmonize their positions, but they were not able to do so.
“We are adjourning this meeting sine die for the government side to look at those two positions to see whether we can do a middle-of-the-road within our organ, the NSIWC”, Ngige said.
Recall that the Federal Government earlier offered the health workers a 300 percent increment on hazard allowances, which came to 37.5 billion nairas.
The government said it is trying to work within that realm of 37.5 billion nairas, following the inability of the unions to harmonize their different positions.
“It is a teething problem because everybody has Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) and we are now renegotiating the CBAs.
“There are CBA’s in 2006, 2009, 2013 and even court pronouncements by the National Industrial Court, especially on work value and equal pay. These are things we will put in a basket and decide”, Ngige said.
On the trade dispute notices issued to the Federal Government by the National Association of Resident Doctors NARD and JOHESU, Ngige said he has directed them to withdraw the strike notices immediately.
“I told them to withdraw because it is arm twisting. It is not allowed in ILO CBA negotiation. So, we expect them to withdraw those notices they gave.
“JOHESU gave 15-day ultimatum with effect from June 28. NARD gave 28-day ultimatum from when the day they had their NEC. Those things are arm twisting and I told them that they must withdraw them because the issues they are bringing in here are tangential issues. They have nothing to do with this discussion here on fixing a new hazard allowance for health professionals and workers”.
The federal government in the year 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, promised to review upward the hazard allowances of health workers from the old figure of five thousand naira to a new figure that would be agreed by all parties.