The government of the State of Osun on Tuesday described as ‘mere blackmail’ the protests by striking doctors, saying that, the government has made more than enough concessions for them to have shifted their positions and reason with the government.
The government called on well-meaning Nigerians to objectively examine the issues involved in the demands of the doctors and see whether they are in tune with the realities of the current worsening global and national economic situation and how it affects Osun.
The statement by the Bureau of Communication and Strategy in the Office of the Governor, which was endorsed by its Director, Semiu Okanlawon, said the doctors are demanding the impossible just as it said that the state under Governor Rauf Aregbesola had offered the best condition of service to all its workers including the doctors before the current financial challenges facing the entire country.
Government said in the face of the current economic realities, it remains unbelievable that doctors would insist that they would not be bound by the payment regime agreed to by over 39,000 other workers in the state which was arrived at after a rigorous deliberation on the finances of the state within the context of the national economic realities.
The statement said that it is an open secret that Nigeria is faced with critical financial challenges which have made many obligations impossible.
It said this was why the state came up with a very transparent formulae for apportioning of its available resources adding that this was agreed to by all categories of workers in the state.
It added, “The only way labour can do without the distrust of government is by setting up a committee with the labour constituting half of the composition and government half and a neutral person jointly accepted by us to be the head of the committee to be reviewing all the revenues and using the reality of the revenue to appropriate or apportion allocation to strategic and key areas of government, which is wages and running the government. We agreed and we are running government absolutely on that basis.
“That agreement came in August and in September; the doctors said they were not in any way bound by that agreement.
“There was no way we could back down because, in the first instance, other professionals had accepted the agreement reached with labour.”
The statement said the doctors have remained recalcitrant despite all entreaties by leading lights of the medical profession, adding “they refused the popular agreement, what should government do? How can we reverse a decision accented to and agreed with by over 39,000 workers because about 200 people are dissatisfied.”
The statement accused the doctors of abandoning their work since September 28, adding that “but we paid them for that month.”
It went further, “By December, we told them they should resume work and they have remained adamant that they want to earn what we cannot afford. In the first instance, except in communist country, you cannot force anybody to work, you can’t drag workers to work under democracy. It is either you want to work or you don’t want to work. But if you cannot take what we are offering and what other workers including Doctors in Local government areas, including consultants at the state level are taking, we cannot afford it.”
The statement said there is no doubt that all aspects of life are affected in Nigeria by the crushing economic hardship.
While admitting that doctors render essential services to the society, the statement reminded Nigerians that there is no single professional in the health sector that is not essential.
It said just as the Government is committed to the welfare of doctors, it must also be committed to the welfare of other professionals in the medical line such as pharmacists, nurses, radiologists, cleaners and others.
Listing its several pro-workers policies, the statement reminded all that the government ensured payment of salaries on or before 26th of every month regardless of the arrival of federal allocation.
“This state never received salary at the end of the month ever since inception. And why? Allocation always comes minimally 14 days after the month, Osun traditionally will wait till the allocation comes before salary can be paid as we are doing now. Today is 16th and January allocation has not come, and it may not come until the end of the month, before now and for 4 years, Aregbesola ensured that salaries were paid on or before every 25th of the month. Not that allocation came every 25th of every month, by my our special arrangement, we ensured that we guaranteed payment before the end of the month for 4 years. Today, it becomes useless and irrelevant and not commendable because we are challenged, not by our own fault, but by the vagaries of the economy in the world, not even in Nigeria,” the statement noted.
It listed other areas such as reform in the way leave allowances were paid; increase in vehicle loans by 400 percent and the end-of-the-year allowance which were paid to workers.
It added, “We began with 10 percent to 25 per cent to 50 per cent and the fourth year to 100 per cent. Unfortunately, but for the economic situation. We couldn’t go further. All of these is to show how workers-friendly we are.”