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Buhari directs finance minister to release seized doctors, health workers wages

Buhari directs finance minister to release seized doctors, health workers wages

Buhari directs finance minister to release seized doctors, health workers wages

President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the minister of finance, budget and national planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, to release the salaries of doctors and other health workers that were seized to enforce the no-work-no-pay rule.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, disclosed this to correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, on Thursday.

He said the president had approved the authority letter to release the funds of the resident doctors for September and October 2021.

The minister said the approval covers members of the Joint Health Services Union (JOHESU) who went on strike in 2018.

He said the approval for the releases of their salaries was on compassionate ground and to encourage them to do well especially as the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging.

The minister revealed that the president has also directed relevant agencies to conclude the discussions on the other allowances for the health workers to enable them to enjoy them.

Dr Ngige said: “The President graciously approved that we pay back some funds, some wages, which we did not pay health workers.

“First, section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act says that when a worker goes on strike, especially those on essential services, the employer can also refuse to pay. That is what they call the ‘No Work, No Pay Rule’.

“But these health sector workers; doctors, pharmacists, nurses and members of JOHESU, we’re trying to make sure that we create an equitable environment for them to function and part of it is to make sure that their welfare is …

“As a first step, Mr President has approved last week and I have the authority and letter, directing the Minister of Finance to release the funds of the resident doctors for September and October 2021, which was seized in conformity with the law.

“In the same vein, the approval also covers members of the JOHESU who went on strike in 2018 for three months. After the first month, after March, when they couldn’t come back, we asked that their pay be suspended. This is in tandem with the ILO principles at work.

“You have a right to strike, but the employer has a right to stop your remuneration and if possible, use it to keep his enterprise going by taking new hands, where possible, especially in essential services.

“So, that same money for 2018 April and May, Mr President has again approved that the Finance Minister refunds or reimburse, on compassionate grounds, those payments.

“This is predicated on the grounds that this group of workers has been showing a lot of dedication and concern to the COVIDand that their Hazard Allowance for 2021 had remained what it was before.

“So, on compassionate grounds and…we agreed that they should be getting this money to keep their morale high. We’re not yet free of COVID-19 and the new mutants, we need to do everything to keep the health workers here, happy.

“In the same vein, he has also directed us to conclude the discussions on the other allowance for the health workers so that they can enjoy it anytime from now.

“So tomorrow (Friday), we’re convening a meeting of Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages, where we’ll ratify the new pay hazard structure for health workers.”

The minister noted that efforts must be made to ensure industrial harmony in the country to allow all sectors to operate well.

He explained: “You know that my mandates, Labour, industrial disputes is one of the major pillars of what we are doing, and the national milieu is always boiling and we try as much as possible to make it calm so that we can have the productivity of work in all the other areas.

“If we allow industrial disputes all over, there’ll be no road construction, there’ll be no building, there’ll be no agriculture, there will be no services in the hospitals, none in the educational sector.”

On the threat by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to go on strike over non-implementation of the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MoA) reached with the union, the minister said the union should educate its members on the quantum of money the federal government has already paid to them.

He said they may be threatening to go on strike not knowing that money has already been paid while the 2009 agreement, which is the other dispute that the union has, is still at the level of Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Ngige explained: “On the side of ASUU, you will also notice that there’s been some brewing crisis. ASUU and their direct employer, which is the Ministry of Education, there’s a tango and the tango is running round the MoA, the Memorandum of Action signed in 2020.

“Refreshing your minds, they were on strike last year and they were at home for nearly nine months and last December, the President magnanimously gave them blanket clemency and we paid them their money for the nine months, spanning into January, February of this year.

“We gave them back nearly nine months’ pay. After doing that, we also gave them a revitalization fund for N40 billion, early this year, for the revitalization of the university system. In the MoA we agreed that they should get another revitalisation this year and by last July, August. The money for revitalization was paid to them, for the university system that were entitled to that. N30 billion was paid.

“Last week, N22.127 billion was also released to the university system for the unions, workers university system to benefit in consonance with the MoA we signed in December 2020.

“The altercation going on now and for which ASUU is asking their union branches to vote on is that a lot of them don’t know that we have paid this quantum of money.

“Maybe it has not gotten into the accounts of the people, the persons involved, but I expected ASUU to inform their people, let them know that this is what has happened.

“They also have a grouse with the negotiation of 2009. The 2009 agreement was being renegotiated before Babalakin left and a new committee was set in place.

“That committee had advisors from Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labor and Employment, Minister of Budget and then Head of Service of the Federation and Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, because part of the renegotiation was the renegotiation of the conditions of service.

“So, a lot of the ministries and agencies that served on that committee as advisors did not agree with the content of the agreement they reached. The Minister of Education and his ministry did not also agree with that recommendation.

“So as far as government is concerned, those recommendations are still at the level of what we call CBA, bargaining agreement, at the level of the ministry.

“If the ministry agrees, the ministry will send it off to the Presidential Committee on Salaries, which is a high-level body for that, and we’ll look at it, and then advise them. It hasn’t come to the stage. Now, that ASUU members and chambers are flexing muscles and saying that the government has refused to sign.

“We’ve not gotten to the level of signing, we are doing an internal committee meeting with the Ministry of Education. So, it’s important that people know what the correct situation is.

“When they finish at Education, they’ll bring it to us in Labour and we’ll forward it to the Finance Committee on Salaries, of which I’m a member and Co-Chair.

“So, it’s not that the government is reneging. It’s important we tell the public that this is the situation.”

On the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) designed by ASUU, Ngige said the proposed salary payment platform has not been perfected to obtain the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) compliance certificate.

He explained: “NITDA has written just last week to give their results on the tests they have done, that those two broad categories of tests, (user acceptance test, which involves NUC and the universities vice-chancellors, bursars, and registrars), that has been done. The second group of tests is what they call integrity test; they have to look at the integrity and usability of that system, where are the loopholes?

“The third one is the vulnerability test. Many systems are hacked into. What potential is there as presently developed, and how they can offer their advice for the protection?

“So, these are the issues there and they have written officially and I’ve copied ASUU with the result of the test, that for now, the system in this present state, cannot be given NITDA compliance certificate, but they went on to enumerate things that can be done to make it a system that will be robust.

“So, they have conducted a lot, like I said about 500 tests and out of that 500 tests. The solution system of UTAS pass many, but there are other areas that need to be recovered. About 1/3 of the tests need to be covered because they were not satisfactory.

“So, this is the situation with ASUU, vis-à-vis the government. It’s a work in progress and I will appeal to them to exercise patience with the government as we go along this. We want to do things that are logically situated.”

Dr Ngige said he also briefed President Buhari on bilateral agreements between Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar on employment.

He explained that Nigeria wants to formalise labour migration policy so that Nigerians in the Middle Eastern counties will be guaranteed decent work.

He added: “So, we have some emerging issues that are both of national and internationalization importance and local.

“Internationally, we have some bilateral agreements on employment with the Republic of Qatar and with the UAE. That of Qatar is ready for us to sign the bilateral agreements. So, I’ve come to brief Mr President on that.

“We want to use it to formalize Labour migration policy, so that Nigerians who are there, about 7,000 of them, in different spheres of work, will be assured of decent work.

“We have the agreement that will specify what kind of work they do protection for them and protection for even their employers over there. So, that is online, I had to brief Mr President because the agreement is nearing maturation and ratification.

“We go to UAE it’s also same, their level components that are to be done by foreigners. We now have them, we now want to use that information now, to go into our vocational training centres so that our people can also be trained and be exported in a civilized manner, in a decent work manner, to become legal resident aliens wherever they go, especially in the UAE.”

The post Buhari directs finance minister to release seized doctors, health workers wages appeared first on NEWS.

Aminat Aigbe

Aminat Aigbe is the first lady of afronaija and a very good blogger ( Original Mrs AfroNaija )

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