A PRESS BRIEFING BY COMRADE FELIX FANIRAN, MSc, FNSP, DIRECTOR OF PHYSIOTHERAPY AND MEDICAL REHABILITATION AND CONSULTANT NEURO COMMUNITY PHYSIOTHERAPIST, THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT, NIGERIAN UNION OF ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS (NUAHP) AT LAGOS UNIVERSITY TEACHING HOSPITAL (LUTH) LAGOS (ON 3RD NOVEMBER, 2014) ON THE CURRENT ON-GOING NATIONWIDE INDUSTRIAL STRIKE BY MEMBERS OF THE UNION FROM 16TH OCTOBER, 2014 TILL DATE.
Greetings and Introduction
I welcome you all, the gentlemen of the press to this press briefing by our Union, NUAHP. The Union’s name without doubt is relatively new among registered trade Unions in the country but in actual fact, the Union was established and recognized by the Federal Government by the Decree 22 of 1978 and it is one of the five registered Unions in Nigerian Health Sector. Since that time, its original name was Nigerian Union of Pharmacists, Medical Technologists and Professions Allied to Medicine (NUPMTPAM).
It was just about two years ago the Union’s name was changed from NUPMTPAM to NUAHP. Membership of the Union: The Union comprises of Physical Therapists (Physiotherapists), Medical Laboratory Scientists, Radiographers or Medical Imaging Scientists, Pharmacists, Dietitians, Medical Social workers, Clinical Psychologists, Medical Physicists, Optometrists, Health Information Managers, Orthotics and a few others.
The only healthcare Professionals who are not members of this Union are the Medical and Dental Practitioners, who are members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and of course Nurse and Mid-wives who are members of National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Mid-wives (NANNM). The National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Mid-wives is a registered trade Union while NMA is not. So, whenever the NMA embarked on strike, it was an illegal strike. Despite this illegality of their strikes, Government has always been listening to them and in fact, always acceding to their requests such that previously acceded requests of other Unions are usually wiped off.
This is the major issue that should be discussed in this press briefing. There is a heavy dose of discrimination in the Health Sector of Nigeria. Here, the Government of the day discriminates against other healthcare Professionals in favour of NMA. The current strike by NUAHP declared by the leadership of this Union on Monday the 13th of October, 2014 actually took off on the 16th of October, 2014. So far, the strike has been effective nationwide and is still on. If the Federal Government does not meet our demands by this Thursday 6th of November, 2014, we hereby direct all our members working for States Government to join the strike, and subsequently this strike will spread to facility at the local Government Areas.
What are the reasons for embarking on this recent strike? It should be noted that NUAHP is a member of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and JOHESU had been engaging the Federal Government in a number of demands since 2010. It would be very surprising to note that whereas issues that were generated since 2010, which various negotiations, collective bargaining had taken place, agreements had been reached, memoranda of understanding had been entered into between the Federal Government and JOHESU, some of the cases were taken to National Industrial Court (NIC) and judgements were entered in favour of the Union, yet the Federal Government had continued to deceive us, to play with time, and refuse to implement all these agreements and Memoranda of Understanding as well as Court Judgements which had been delivered in our favour. For instance, as a result of Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti’s discriminatory salary structure introduced in 1991, we were involved in protests strikes litigations which were concluded through NIC in March, 2006 which directed the Federal Ministry of Health to engage us in bargaining to arrive at a mutually acceptable rate of call duty allowance.
Gentlemen of the press, as I speak to you now, the Federal Government had not acceded to the Court judgement since 2006. Between 2006 and 2009, frantic efforts were made and during collective bargaining meetings held with Professor Osotimehin (a Medical Practitioner) as a Minister of Health in 2009, he carefully dodged us throughout the negotiations that call duty allowance was not allowed to be negotiated. This led our Union to boycott the collective bargaining agreement signing session on 2nd December, 2009 between November and December, which made us to embark on strike to press home our demands. The strike yielded the pressure that put a clause in the 2009 collective agreement which enabled us to demand that call duty allowance be negotiated in future.
Eventually, by March this year, we had the opportunity of discussing this matter and collective agreement was reached that the call duty allowance should be made a percentage of consolidated salary of beneficiary. Up-till now, Federal Government has not released the circular to operationalize the collective agreement of March this year. We therefore call on the Federal Government to release this circular without any further delay.
The second major problem that is leading to the current strike is the refusal of Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies to pay the specialist allowance that was mutually agreed in 2009. In 2009, through a collective agreement, it was agreed that the specialist allowance should be paid to hospital based healthcare Professionals who possess the requisite and relevant post-graduate qualifications and appoint-able into Consultant grade CONHESS 13 to 15. This allowance is being enjoyed and paid to Medical and Dental Practitioners since January 2010. The non-payment of Specialists allowance made us to go to Court and the Court ruled in July 2013 in our favour. Despite that Court pronouncement, we have not been paid till now.
The next stage of agitation are the non-implementation of the agreement reached with us on the 10th of May, 2012. Whereas it was agreed in May 2012 after another strike action of almost a week, we were able to reach agreement that all our members who possess appropriate University degree or equivalent Professional qualifications and had reached salary CONHESS 14 should be promoted to salary CONHESS 15 which is equivalent to civil service grade level 17. As we speak, despite having so many qualified people who have spent close to 14 years on the salary grade, the Federal Government has not fully implemented this agreement except for one or two Institutions that have carried out this, others are yet to comply since 2012 when the agreement was reached..
Similarly, it was also agreed that the Recommendations of Abdullahi Bello Presidential Committees report be implemented. If that has been done, the plight of other Health Professionals would have improved tremendously but due to a connivance of the immediate past Minister of Health with the NMA, these recommendations have been abandoned, only to pass it on to another Committee called Yayale Ahmed which was set up in September last year and ought to have finished his assignment since last year December, yet to do so till now. All are aimed at frustrating our members and to deny them of their rights.
Another agreement which was reached in May 2012 is the up-ward review of retirement age of Teaching Hospitals and related Tertiary Hospitals Staff. Ordinarily, we don’t need to even negotiate on this at all because as far back as 1981 when the Federal Government’s Philip Onosode Presidential Commission reviewed the conditions of service in Teaching Hospitals and Research Institutes, it was already agreed by Government that the Universities Teaching Hospitals and Research Institutes should enjoy similar conditions of service and since the University Staff have been enjoying retirement age of 65 and 70 years, it should be made automatic to Universities Teaching Hospitals. Despite the fact we have reached agreement on this since May, 2012, up-till this time, this has not been implemented. Just for the Federal Government to issue a circular to bring into existence what has been agreed upon, it has not been done. Despite the fact that University Lecturers who work in Teaching Hospitals continue to enjoy this benefit, the Staff of Teaching Hospitals are denied the same.
In view of the fact that this has already been enacted into law by the Federal Government dated 11th May 2012, we use this occasion to state clearly that all our members in Teaching Hospitals and Tertiary Hospitals in the country are automatically qualified to benefit the review their University counterparts are enjoying since the two Institutions are associated by law and functions.
Similarly, it has been resolved in 2012 that the composition of the Management Board of our various Hospitals should be done in such a way that no healthcare Professionals should dominate the membership of the Board. A situation where 8-10 out of 13 members of the Board of Management of each Hospital are Medical Practitioners (one Association) and only one person represents twenty Professional groups.
1. Non-implementation of Job Evaluation Report of 2008 which favours other health Professionals
2. Non-payment of arrears of salary of officers who benefited in the 22nd June 2013 NIC judgement on skipping of CONHESS 10 salary.
3. Consultancy status withdrawal from other health Professionals except Medical Practitioners.
4. Salary Adjustment for all other health Professionals and workers other than NMA members whose salary was adjusted in January leaving out others. A classical example of discrimination. We demand the issuance of the relevant circular and payment of 2 months arrears now while the rest be paid in 2015.
5. Creation of departments of:
5.1. Medical Laboratory Sciences separate from Pathology
5.2. Optometry, Dental Technology and Therapy
5.3. Radiography etc to confer Professional autonomy to each Profession.
6. Complete Autonomy for University Teaching Hospitals viz:
6.1. Clear cut definition of rules for honourary Consultants compare to permanent Staff of Teaching Hospitals.
6.2. Immediate stoppage of appointment of University Staff as CMD, CMAC, Heads of Clinical departments of Teaching Hospital.
6.3. Need to appoint more Hospital- based Consultants than honourary Consultants.
6.4. Appointment of CMDs, CMAC, Heads of Departments among full time/permanent Staff of Teaching Hospitals.
6.5. Others: Appointment of new CMD for LUTH, Lagos advert is injurious.
The way forward
1. Proper interpretation and implementation of the Teaching Hospitals Act or its re-enactment.
2. Presidency should be sensitive to the yearnings of other workers other than NMA members.
3. Appointment of Ministers from both sides to ensure balancing and harmony.