Contrary to initial hope that the ongoing industrial action by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) will be suspended today due to an agreement reportedly reached, it has emerged that the sustenance of ‘no work, no pay’ rule had truncated the resolution of the crisis.
The rule was introduced by the Federal Ministry of Health, obviously, to force the striking medics back to work. The ministry also approached the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to adjudicate on the legality or otherwise of the strike.
Speaking after a two-day meeting involving the ministry, Budget Office, National Salaries, Income and Wage Commission, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and NARD with the Ministry of Labour and Employment as a conciliator at the weekend in Abuja, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, confirmed that the withdrawal of ‘no work, no pay’ rule was not part of the negotiated items. He hinted that the NMA was mandated to work with the health ministry to expunge the rule through instrumentality of alternative dispute resolution.
Ngige said: “The meeting did not discuss the issue of ‘no work, no pay.’ We cannot, because the matter is in industrial court. But the meeting agreed that the NMA should work with the Ministry of Health and NARD so that the matter before the court can be withdrawn for alternative dispute resolution as earlier advocated by the NICN.”
He added that the gathering granted NARD the leeway to convey its National Executive Council meeting to make definite pronouncements on the status of the industrial action.
The minister, however, said a non-victimisation clause of those that participated in the strike was inserted in the agreement struck.
Ngige continued: “We have inserted in our agreement that nobody will be victimised for participating in the industrial action. NARD pleaded with the meeting to be allowed to consult with their organs. This is not the first time we are allowing unions to get back to their members concerning agreements reached. They are allowed to consult. But overall, we are satisfied that we have done justice to all the issues in contention. We have set a timeline for all the matters to be resolved. The meeting then allowed NARD to do their consultations and get back to us before we exchange the document.”
REACTING, NARD’s National President, Dr. Okhuaihesuyi Uyilawa, stated that the officials that attended the meeting declined to sign the pact because they were not authorized.
He explained that the association’s NEC was meeting soon to review the agreement and take a final decision. Uyilawa feared that government’s insistence on its pay rule might constitute a stumbling block to achievement of a compromise on the issues in dispute. He said the association would rather exhaust the pending court case.
“The Federal Government’s stance on ‘no work, no pay’ is still in force and they are talking about signing a memorandum of understanding. Can anyone beat a child and expect the child not to cry? NARD will want the case in court to proceed. NEC will meet very soon to take a position on the matter,” he clarified.