Nigerian health workers on Wednesday declared a total strike to protest the government’s alleged failure to honour previous agreements and court rulings regarding their welfare.
The strike, which takes effect on Thursday, comes after the expiration of two separate ultimatums the workers’ body had given the government. The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) had on 14 August issued a 30-day ultimatum, followed by another seven-day ultimatum on 14 September.
Biobelemoye Josiah, president of the workers’ union, said the government did not address their issues while those ultimatums lasted.
“This lackadaisical attitude of the government has necessitated the resolve to call out all our members nationwide to withdraw their services and stay at home with effect from midnight of today [Wednesday] even after waiting patiently till this hour on the approval for adjustments of CONHESS [an assortment of agreements about workers’ welfare],” Josiah told a news briefing in Ilorin, the capital of north-central Kwara state.
“We once again appeal to [the government] to tow the path of honour and implement all agreements, memorandums of understanding, and courts judgments, while we urge our members at the tertiary health level to make the strike total, and comprehensive,” he added.
According to the president, if “no appreciable response is received from the government within 15 days of commencement of the strike by the Federal Tertiary Health Institutions, all our members in the states, and local governments nationwide are directed to join the action by 28 September.”
Health workers demand better pay and working conditions including adjustment of salary as done for doctors since January 2014, payment of outstanding arrears of promotion, autonomy for teaching and specialist hospitals in the country, and review of retirement age from 60 to 65 years as done for the tertiary education sector.
The strike comes barely one week after the country’s doctors called off their own strike.