That JOHESU Strike Action

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The Joint Health Staff Union of Nigeria, JOHESU, last week, finally called off its nationwide strike action which commenced on the 17th of April, 2018.
The union, despite appeals and calls by well-meaning Nigerians and the toll of the industrial action on the health sector, had insisted on pursing the action to a logical conclusion, even in the face of an order of an Abuja Industrial Court to the contrary.
JOHESU was adamant and insisted that no force or court could stop it from continuing with the action until its demands were met in full by the Federal Government.
JOHESU was, among others, demanding for an upward review of the Consolidated Health Services Salary Scale, CORIHESS 10, employment of health professionals, as well as upward review of retirement age of members from 60-65years and parity with medical doctors’ salaries in the nation’s healthcare sector.
The Federal Government and other stakeholders in response had accused JOHESU of insensitivity, selfishness and overstepping its bounds in its demands.
However, following the intervention of another industrial court of arbitration and its offer to mediate in the union’s negotiation with the Federal Government, JOHESU eventually called off its strike and recalled its members to work, last week.
The Tide thinks that the union’s decision to end the strike and return to work, even if belatedly is commendable. The decision will certainly save some Nigerians from avoidable anguish and possible death.
Moreso, with the reported cases of the return of the Ebola virus in some African countries, the health sector in Nigeria would be on one page and have a well coordinated, preventive and emergency approach if need be.
We agree and wholly accept the right of JOHESU and indeed any union to fight for members’ right and welfare, and even embark on industrial action if necessary. But good and genuine reasons as well as due process must not be abandoned. Also, in pressing for one’s perceived rights, that of another or group must not be infringed upon.
That is why we frown at some of the attitude and actions of JOHESU while the strike lasted. The strike action took a new but dangerous dimension when members of the union started intimidating other health workers like medical doctors for failing to join them in solidarity. The situation degenerated further at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Awka, Anambra State when resident doctors on duty were manhandled by JOHESU members.
Such barbaric and extra-judicial actions are condemnable and not expected from a reputable organisation like JOHESU. It is least expected that JOHESU would resort to taking the law into its own hand and infringing on other people’s rights to press home its own demands.
We, therefore, call on the leadership of JOHESU and members to always act within the law. Commonsense and national interest should always prevail in order not to lose public sympathy and support. It is always better to sit on the table to resolve disagreements than to resort to violence and other actions that can threaten human life.
Perhaps, the JOHESU industrial dispute and action may not have degenerated into a strike action and its attendant consequences if the Federal Government had been proactive and ready to honour its own commitments.
The Federal Government and its officials must learn how to respect agreements reached with workers at all times. The tendency to play the ostrich or repudiate agreements would only work to fester crisis and avoidable losses.