As Nigerian doctors’ strike drags on, lawyer network seeks resolution
A group of lawyers from various countries known as the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) called on the Nigerian government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the health sector unions, including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). ).
The lawyers, in a letter dated September 24, 2021 and addressed to the Nigerian Ministers of Labor and Employment, and of Health, respectively Chris Ngige and Osagie Ehanire, expressed concern over the mistreatment of doctors and other law enforcement personnel. health in Nigeria.
The group also accused the government of violating the freedom of association of striking doctors and of rightly demanding fair treatment and improved welfare.
In the letter, the lawyers said the government has not started the process of implementing all the agreements signed with the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), as well as with three other affiliates in the health sector.
The letter is read in part; “From August 2021, thousands of NARD members resumed their strike against long unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions in hospitals and insufficient risk premium.
“Indeed, some doctors have not been paid or paid their full salary since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.
“In addition, the government’s failure to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), has already resulted in the nearly two dozen NARD members died. “
“Nigerian doctors are not alone”
Lawyers said healthcare workers in other countries have also had to remove tools at one point or another to protest poor welfare conditions, among others.
The letter further reads in part; “NARD members are not the only ones resorting to collective action, as doctors and nurses in several other countries have also gone on strike, including in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Israel, South Korea , Spain, Peru and the United States.
“As in Nigeria, these healthcare workers have protested against unsafe working conditions (including lack of PPE), poor wages, inadequate government responses to the pandemic, and the overall failure of adequate resourcing of health care systems. health.”
The lawyers said the various memoranda of understanding signed had specific implementation deadlines, including payment of salary arrears, payment to the medical residency training fund and a “no-victimization” clause.
He said, however, that the Nigerian government failed to meet these deadlines.
Right to liberty
The lawyers noted that the labor court ruling ordering all doctors to return to work does not address the doctor’s concerns.
He said workers have the right to freedom of association and to organize, to bargain collectively and to strike under Nigerian law.
“On September 17, the National Labor Court granted an interlocutory injunction suspending the strike and ordering all doctors to return to work.
“The court cited the potential damage the strike had on public health and left the doctors’ concerns to a later date undefined,” he said.
The network explained that NARD members are on strike due to non-payment of wages and failure to provide a safe workplace, all clearly protected goals for a strike.
He urged the federal government to fully implement all outstanding MOUs without further delay and to ensure that doctors return to work.
Resident doctors at public health facilities in Nigeria have been on strike for 53 days. Doctors cited several reasons, including delays in the payment of their salaries and allowances.
The strike coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, leaving many worried it could have serious consequences for the battle against the third wave of the pandemic.
NARD is demanding, among other things, the payment of compensation for COVID-19 treatment in the absence of death insurance in service, having lost more than a dozen of its members due to the pandemic, while also protesting against the shortage of workers -work in public hospitals.
At the root of the strike is the government’s continued failure to honor the agreements reached with the NARD on its demands.
A meeting last month between leaders of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD, and government officials also failed to resolve the issues after the striking doctors withdrew at the last minute.
Although the National Labor Court (NIC) ordered NARD members to return to their jobs, doctors vowed to continue the strike until all demands are met.
The NMA, the Association of Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria (MDCAN) and University Doctors and Dentists (MEDSABAM) are also threatening to call a strike if the government fails to address outstanding issues.
The group says it brings together more than 670 workers’ rights advocates from more than 70 countries, including Nigeria.
The ILAW network is currently a project of the Solidarity Center, a US-based non-governmental organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO dedicated to promoting workers’ rights around the world.
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