Barring last minute change of decision, health workers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) may on Thursday, 19 March, 2020, call off the ongoing industrial action.
This followed a successful intervention of the House of Representatives after a meeting with the representatives of the striking health workers and the management of the FCT on Tuesday.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who had mandated the Rep. Tanko Sununu-led Committee on Health Services to intervene and ensure that the matters are resolved, pleaded with the health workers to consider the effect of the industrial action on the larger society, especially at this period of global health challenges.
At the meeting with the Committee were members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) as well as Nurses and Midwives Association, while the Director, Human Resources, FCT, Muhammad Bashir, who led other management staff to the meeting, stood in for the Permanent Secretary.
According to Roland Aigbovo, President, NARD, FCT Chapter, and Igbinovia Imotiyan, Chairman, MDCAN, Abuja Chapter, the striking workers’ grievances bordered on the failure of the FCT management to pay arrears of some allowances due to some of their members, non-payment of salary to some members employed since October 2019, irregular and incomplete salary payment of members since the management of FCT migrated to the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) in January 2020 as well as promotion arrears issues.
NARD, FCT Chapter President, Aigbovo and Imotiyan of MDCAN said the congresses would be conveyed within 48 hours and would strive to convince their members to call off the strike based on the intervention of the House and the assurances by the FCT management.
Gbajabiamila, while addressing the striking workers and the FCT management, urged the health workers to allow the intervention of the House to prevail, noting that the ripple effect of the industrial action would be enormous, not only for FCT residents but for the country as a whole.
He said: “When I heard of the strike, I knew it’s going to be problematic for us in FCT. As doctors, I think you should be able to take a lot more pain, your threshold should be higher, the strike should be the last option you want to consider.
“I appeal that you should just tarry a little while, especially at this time, with what is going around, most of the issues at stake here are peculiar
“As for FCT, if it’s a question of entitlement and people are not paid, this House won’t sit back and allow that to happen. This is the result (strike) we get if you aren’t paid and we don’t know who’ll be affected.
“While I appeal to the workers on strike, the government must do its part. You can’t go into an agreement with people and don’t fulfill it.
“Please allow the House to intervene, to broker a deal for the sake of those whom we don’t know that would be affected, for the sake of humanity
“Please let’s reverse our steps and give us some time and let’s see how far this intervention would go. By then, when we would have known that you have bent forward backwards and accommodate all shades of opinions.”
According to the Chairman of the Committee, Sununu after the meeting, the FCT management agreed to ensure that all salary payment issues with the IPPIS are resolved and the health workers would be captured by the end of April 2020.
It was also agreed that issues of skipping and promotion are resolved, while 28 days of accommodation allowance for new employees would also be addressed through the current and 2021 budgets.
“We discussed the major contentious issues, and the FCT administration agreed that the workers have genuine demands and have agreed that something would be done immediately to address the situation.
“The associations also agreed that the issues were discussed exhaustively and that for those on strike, they will reach out to their members to forward the resolutions reached today, to look at it closely and call off the strike.
“We asked and appealed to them to look at the national and international health challenges we have, some countries are locked down because of coronavirus. Nigeria is not spared; we have diagnosed cases but working hard to contain that, to ensure that our people are secured,” he said.
Earlier, Bashir, who stood in for the Permanent Secretary, said FCT has no challenges paying its workers but that the problems of irregular and incomplete payments were a result of the migration to the new salary payment system, IPPIS.
He pleaded that the FCT be given till the end of April 2020 to sort out all the issues.