Kazeem Ugbodaga

The doctors who were on strike during last year’s Ebola scourge in Lagos, have gone on strike again to demand to be paid during the period of they were on strike last year. And the Lagos State Government says the latest strike by the doctors is illegal and should be called off.

But the doctors say they will not suspend the strike until their demands are met.

The Medical Guild, under the employ of Lagos State began an indefinite strike on Monday to demand that government pay them four months salaries being owed them when they embarked on strike the other time.

A statement issued and signed by the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba, said government’s attention had been drawn to the fact that some doctors under the aegis of Medical Guild had commenced yet another strike on account of the non-payment of their wages during the period of their previous strike.

“It is pertinent to stress for public information that the said strike was an illegal action, just as the current one. On the previous occasion, the doctors went on what they called a “sympathy strike” at the request of their professional association, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) which then had a dispute with the Federal Government.

“They had no trade dispute with the State Government (their employer). It is also instructive to note that doctors in private employment, who are also members of the NMA, did not join the so-called ‘sympathy strike’. It is a fact that those health workers who did not work during the stated period were not paid.

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“This “no work no pay rule’ is not just a policy of the State Government as alleged. It is in line with international employment practices and the Trade Disputes Act, a federal legislation, which is binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria.”

The government said using funds contributed by taxpayers to pay persons who deprived the same taxpayers of care and caused them untold suffering and death is not only in contravention of law, it further goes against the dictates of good conscience.

“As if this abandonment of sick patients was not bad enough, it took place at a time of national emergency when the Ebola virus broke out in Lagos. It was foreign doctors and volunteers, that came to our aid to start the process of combating the virus in a commendable humanitarian gesture.”

Also in a statement, the Medical Guild said the the issues in contention were the continued employment of doctors as casual (contract) workers; the non-employment of resident doctors in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); and the discriminatory application of the state’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy to members of the Medical Guild in the period between April/May 2012 and September 2014.

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“The Governor did in fact meet with their leadership and that had been followed by several meetings with the Commissioner for Health, Commissioner for Special Duties and other state officials in relevant administrative positions right up to the last weekend,” it stated

Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr. Biyi Kufo said the doctors had embarked on three-day warning strike, saying that the warning strike followed an exhaustive and protracted 6-month period during which the Medical Guild, along with the Nigerian Medical Association had appealed to the administration for peaceful resolution, to no avail.

“The appeals had been made directly at meetings, as well as in various letters to the Honourable Commissioner for Health and the Governor of Lagos State written by the Medical Guild, the state branch of the Nigerian Medical Association, the National Association of Resident Doctors and the national body of the Nigerian Medical Association. A number of meetings, including that of a delegation of elders of the profession with the Honourable Commissioner for Health, failed to resolve the issue.

Kufo said despite several meetings and with the government failing to meet the demand of doctors, the Guild issued a 3-week ultimatum to government to resolve the issues or face industrial action.

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“The ultimatum was to expire on the 19th of January 2015. We were invited to meetings which took place on the 16th and 17th of January 2015, at which we were given assurances that the issues would be resolved, and after presenting this optimism to a general meeting on the 18th of January 2015, the ultimatum was extended by four weeks.

“However, the administration took no steps towards resolution during the period, and it is informative to know that members of the Joint Health Sectors Unions (JOHESU), who had embarked on strike, were paid. Even more interesting is that a group of members of JOHESU who had the ‘no work, no pay’ policy applied to them in December 2014 had the salaries returned in January 2015

“The Guild was left with little choice other than to embark on the warning strike previously mentioned.”