The Federal Government is ready to withdraw the case instituted against the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) if striking doctors return to work.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said this on Sunday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
“I have briefed Mr President, we have agreed that they should come back to work and if they come back to work, we can take other things from there. We will withdraw the case in court,” Ngige said.
“So, this is where we are with them and we are saying that even if anybody cares to put it in any agreement, that clause will be void ab initio because it’s against the law of the land and we will not, as a government, succumb to undue arm twisting and then go and sign that.”
The Minister explained that some workers had lost their pay during previous strikes (under the “no work, no pay” rule) and the same punishment will be meted out to the striking doctors if they refuse to resume.
“Other workers have lost their pay during strikes; the Joint Health Systems Union (JOHESU), they lost their pay in 2018 when they went on four months strike; they lost about two or three months’ pay when the no-work, no-pay rule was invoked,” the minister said, adding that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suffered the same fate last year.
“Nobody paid them (ASUU) anything for six months and it was during COVID-19. So, we can handle things administratively, but nobody should arm-twist,” he said.
The Minister also revealed that a list of 8,000 doctors to benefit from the Medical Residency Training Fund is being considered by the government.
The lingering tussle between the Nigerian government and NARD has been on since July 31 when the doctors went on strike to press home their demands.
Despite a series of meetings between the Federal Government and the striking doctors, no resolution has been reached.
While the Federal Government insists that the demands of the doctors have been met, the doctors insist otherwise.
Some of the issues raised by the medical practitioners include the immediate payment of all salaries owed to all house officers, including March salaries (regardless of quota system) before the end of business on March 31.
They are also asking for an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50 per cent of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding COVID-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary institutions.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had in the wake of the disagreements threatened to invoke the “no-work, no pay” rule on NARD.
But the NMA has thrown its weight behind the striking doctors and other health workers.