UNION HERO: BIO CARVING OUT THE MIDDLE GROUND 

 It looked like a smile, but Susan Peters was barring teeth. She stayed silent as the three other men talked across the corner table at popular eating spot in Abuja, rationalizing the NMA stands against government heeding to MHWUN request for …….The strike is unwarranted said one, do you know how many years it takes to graduate as a medical doctor? Medical workers union ask of equal salary structure is out of place, said another. There is no rationale over their request. Anyway, they will soon get tired and go back to work, is not new.

This, Susan could not take it. The smile dropped, the teeth parted. ” there has to be a clear distinction here,” she said forcefully, her voice an octave lower than the others, ” between asking for equal pay and equal treatment ‘” one thing that are being asked; is the adjustment of federal salary structure as done to others.” 

The table went quiet for a second, the air prickled. And the men switched to a topic they all could agree on: Nigeria government salary structure is so just creating bureaucracy and lives are not getting better but worse.

Susan Peters is a worker with National Hospital Abuja and a member of JOHESU. Joint Health Educational Sector Union ( JOHESU) went into industrial action called by its national executive on April, 17th 2018 and rival association, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) took stand of berating the action and response.

Comrade  Biobeleoye Josiah aka Bio, is the spear head of the mega union, came into power 2015 after 2015 NLC election. He is of the school of thought who lives by, that with proper directive advocacy, issues can be fix with a bill. But recently, when all options at his table has been explored and exhausted, he urged the members to take out on the street as government seems not shifting ground on their requests.

His emergence as JOHESU President as well MHWUA,  A man also known as Bio, hQas made the JOHESU agitational action to take more of combative, even downright jingoistic tone, the strategy he introduced caused the agitation to have more nation wide clouts that attracted public opinion everywhere, against unfair treatment existing between the two unions, JOHESU and NMA which have two serving Nigeria ministers as member.

In the year 2014,  NMA made the same request under CONMESS-was granted salary review .  Come this year JOHESU under CONHESS policy were asked to adhere to industrial court verdict to implement the 2014 agreements.

After series on indoor consultation and advocacy, union gave 21days ultimatum to the federal government but when the timeline expired, they took up on their threat and went on industrial action on 17th April, 2018 to demand the industrial court implementation salary restructuring  under CONHESS policy, month after it seemed that the government not relenting in honoring their request but rather minister of Health, Prof. Adewale, came out with counter claim that out of 15 demands of the union, 14 have been met. A claim the union refuted to be lies as none have been met. 

Then what is the stake of the minister on lying against the union and not meeting up to the demands as have been done to the other parallel association, NMA?

“This group had gone to the government and made their own demands which they have gotten, now our own demands they are fighting against it.”

Rather, NMA has been everywhere like rival house wives with propaganda sentiments, petty jealousies and greed insisting that federal government should not listen to JOHESU that honoring their demands will alter the existing relativity in salary scale in the health sector even when is glaring that the claim  is unfounded looking at Medical doctors salary ration with JOHESU group. They are having that fear that it will harmonize and create equality that might distort the hierarchical order of the overall health sector.

“Which equality? He asked. We are not asking for any harmonization, all we asking for implementation of CONHESS as done for others. What is the entry point of Medical doctor, level 12 while equality entry point of my members is level 8. All we asking is application of equity in salary structure. Increment without equal increment other side is widening the earning gap.”

The meddlesome of NMA continue interloping the negotiations objecting what it perceived as harmonization that might distort the salary hierarchy existing in the industry. Many have it that minister of health supposed to shut them up and order the association to face their duties but that were not being done for the mere fact as alleged, he was one instigating the association, (a member) to put up a threat to undermine the effects of the strike. But is it justifiable for a minister, deemly constitutional to extend hands of empathy to the  aggrieved union.

It is a display of partiality and irrationality for minister of health using his member NMA to ” inflict  havoc to a sector under his ministration. 

Following this interference uncalled for, commentaries and use of security apparatus to victimize the striking union even to an extent of withdrew of their April salaries, they’ve worked for. What he did do during his colleagues industrial action.

Recently, he approved over 300 million Naira for what many termed ” Geneva jamboree.”  An adventurous and ostentatious trip that had 70% of the delegates from NMA, a very much extravagance travel for medical doctors.

Despite, Minister of labour and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige coming out to caution NMA to stop antagonistic utterances and behaviors toward  the striking union, that the meddling, Honourable Minister, Ngige, perceived will create unhealthy inter-union rivalry between these two parallel medical practitioners group.

 Public questioned rationale for these interference. NMA went to an extent of threatening to withdraw their services across the health institutions in the country if government eventual accedes to JOHESU demands stalling promised offer. They enter far of using propangans calling the mega union existence as “illegal.”

” JOHESU was a unified union made up of five autonomous unions, who came together to form a body called JOHESU, as an umbrella body due to constant pressure and suppression for medical doctors association,” he said.

“We are a registered mega union with C.A.C recognized as so, but NMA is just an association not even a union formed by medical union. We have portion of 95percentage of the Nigeria medical practitioner why they are 5%.”

 Do you know why this unfair treatment originated from? You can see, where Minister of Health and Labour belong to the same association, there have been unfair benefits and treatments but what we are asking is for them to apply law of equity.” said Biobeleoye.

These are what to be expected when two serving ministers are one union- minister of labour and employment, Dr. Ngige and minister of health, Prof. Adewale as members. E Spirit de corps concept. Colleagues supporting colleagues, and using the federal power to suppress the existence of rival group.

There are instigations labeling the action of NMA on greed and self- serving gratifications, as they indirectly benefit from the strike, as it creates a way for the flourishing of their irrespective hospitals as patients are being referred back to them, where treatments are privately done and proceeds goes into their pockets. 

Only losers here are masses and JOHESU.

As it is, as JOHESU don’t serve the course, they take whatever served at dinner time even crumbs. Yet expected to chew it without a mutter. 

NLC union might be dispirited by this fact like rest of the country who are so sick of talking about this raise-they can’t wrap their heads around the reality as the refusal is a big blow.

 Comrade Josiah Biobeleoye is not about saying no to every condition offered by government, it is about him making manageable changes that fit what the demands requirements, looking for a common ground, all lacking on what the government is doing. 

A call for civility is constitutional right. Breaking law of equity enemy to it. Time will decide if it has been heard.

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