FG Urges Resident Doctors To Abandon Planned Strike
Federal Government Urges National Association of Resident Doctors to Abandon Strike, Stresses Importance of Dialogue
The Federal Government has issued a stern warning to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), urging them to reconsider their proposed five-day warning strike.
Sen. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, delivered the cautionary message on Tuesday after receiving a notification letter from the NARD executive regarding their intended industrial action.
In a statement signed by Mr. Olajide Oshundun, the Director of Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, Ngige classified the planned strike as illegal. The imminent strike is scheduled to commence at midnight on May 16.
In response to the letter received at his office around 5 pm that same day, Ngige promptly contacted the Minister of Health, who confirmed the scheduling of a meeting with the resident doctors on Wednesday.
Ngige advised the doctors to take advantage of the opportunity for constructive dialogue with their employer instead of embarking on a warning strike, which holds no legal standing.
“I strongly advise them to attend the meeting with the Minister of Health tomorrow. Furthermore, I firmly recommend that they refrain from proceeding with the five-day warning strike,” Ngige emphasized.
The Minister pointed out that there is no distinction between a warning strike and a full-fledged strike.
While acknowledging the doctors’ right to strike, he emphasized that their employer possesses the legal right, as outlined in Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, to withhold pay for the duration of the strike.
Ngige stated that if NARD has strike funds to compensate its members for the five-day period, it will not impede their decision to strike.
He further explained that the Ministry of Health will direct teaching hospitals to employ ad hoc medical practitioners for the duration of the strike, utilizing the funds withheld from those who participated in the industrial action to compensate these ad hoc doctors.
This, Ngige asserted, aligns with the International Labour Organization’s principles of decent work, particularly for essential service providers. The Minister expressed concern for the well-being of individuals whose lives may be at risk due to the absence of resident doctors.
Addressing the demands put forth by the doctors, Ngige highlighted the Federal Government’s limited authority to compel states to adopt the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF).
As health falls under the residual list, where both the federal and state governments possess legislative powers, Ngige clarified that the Federal Government’s role is to formulate policies. When states disagree, they are free to establish their own policies. Consequently, the Federal Government cannot coerce states into implementing the MRTF against their will.
Ngige denied NARD’s claim that the Federal Government failed to remunerate their members with the minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears.
He affirmed that all employees in the education, health sectors, and even defense agencies received the adjustment. Noting that the doctors cannot declare a nationwide strike due to certain states owing their members, he emphasized that the federal government cannot intervene in this state matter.
Regarding the proposed bill in the National Assembly that would bind doctors for five years, Ngige clarified that as a private member’s bill, the executive arm of government cannot meddle in it.
He underlined that executive intervention in legislative affairs would infringe upon the autonomy and independence of the legislature. Ngige expressed confidence that the bill would be rejected during the public hearing, as it contravenes the prohibition of forced labor.
He advised the doctors not to discuss a 200% pay increase, deeming it unfeasible. Ngige acknowledged the efforts made by the government to enhance conditions for doctors and other healthcare workers, such as the revision of hazard allowances.
Additionally, he revealed that the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) was already engaged in negotiations with the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, and the Presidential Committee on Salaries to address doctors’ remuneration.
“It is incongruous for student doctors to embark on a strike when the consultants responsible for their training are already engaged in negotiations with the Federal Government,” Ngige concluded.
The Federal Government’s stern warning to the National Association of Resident Doctors comes in the midst of mounting tensions over unresolved grievances. As the planned strike looms, stakeholders eagerly await the outcome of the impending meeting between the Minister of Health and the resident doctors.