NIGERIA’S National Association of Resident Doctors (Nard) has suspended its nationwide strike initiated on April 1 to protest the non-payment of their salary arrears and the promised coronavirus hazard allowance.
Faced with a hectic workload as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, medical house officers across Nigeria have had a very tough year and as a result have asked to be well remunerated for their heavy workload. They have asked that the government clear their backlog of salary arrears as well as pay them an agreed Covid-19 hazard allowance as is the practice everywhere else worldwide.
Nard and the federal government agreed a meagre N5,000 hazard allowance but even this has not been paid and following an extraordinary national executive council meeting late last month, the union decided it had no option but to call for industrial action. While decrying the meagre N5,000 allowance paid to its members, Nard also noted that since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, it has lost 17 doctors, whose families and loved ones were yet to benefit from the Death in Service Insurance Scheme.
Embarrassed by the strike, the government opened negotiations with the doctors and after a series of talks, Nard agreed to suspend the strike. Nard president Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said that the association decided to suspend its strike after receiving some good feedback from the government.
However, the union gave the government an ultimatum of four weeks to meet its demands or the action could resume. Signs that the doctors will call off their strikes first emerged yesterday when the federal government set up a committee to smoothen out the payments by removing the irregularities encountered in the process.
Dr Okhuaihesuyi said: “The strike has been suspended after the government gave us some good comebacks from our negotiations. We had an emergency National Executive Council meeting and we decided to suspend the strike for four weeks.”
Labour and employment minister Dr Chris Ngige, said the meeting agreed to set up the committee after noting that the payment of house officers’ salaries experienced some irregularities as double payments were made to some officers in some centres, while a few have not been paid as of date. He added that the five-man committee was given 72 hours from Saturday, April 10 to produce a valid list of names of house officers to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (Ippis), through the Federal Ministry of Health.
According to Dr Ngige, the committee members were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Health, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Ippis, the Nigerian Medical Association, Nard and the Committee of Chief Medical Directors. He added that he hoped that with this and other understandings reached, Nard would give this conciliation process a chance for industrial peace by calling off the strike.