The Federal Government has warned members of the National Association of Resident Doctors to shelve their planned five-day warning strike, describing it as illegal.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, issued the warning shortly after receiving a letter from the NARD executive notifying him of the impending industrial action, billed to commence midnight May 16, 2023.
Reacting to the letter, dated May 16, 2023 and delivered to his office at about 5pm same day, Ngige said on receiving the letter, he contacted the Minister of Health, who informed him that a meeting has been scheduled by his office with the resident doctors on Wednesday, May 17.
He therefore advised the doctors to avail themselves of the opportunity for social dialogue with their employer, rather than embark on a warning strike, which is unknown to the law.
He said, “I will advise them to attend the meeting with the Minister of Health tomorrow. I will also advise them very strongly not to go on five-day warning strike. There is nothing like warning strike. A strike is a strike.
“If they want to take that risk, the options are there. It is their decision. They have the right to strike. You cannot deny them that right. But their employer has another right under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, to withhold their pay for those five days.
“So, if the NARD has strike funds to pay their members for those five days, no problem. The Health Minister will instruct the teaching hospitals to employ adhoc people for those five days and they will use the money of the people who went on strike to pay the adhoc doctors. That is the ILO principles at decent work, especially for those rendering essential services. Lives should be protected. One of my sons is a resident doctor. I will advise him to go to work and sign the attendance register. The people seen at work are the ones to receive their pay. If you don’t work, there will be no pay.”
Commenting on the five demands of the doctors, Ngige said the Federal Government lacks the powers to compel the states to domesticate the Medical Residency Training Fund, since health is in the residual list, where both the federal and state governments have the powers to legislate.
According to him, the job of the Federal Government is to make policy and where the states disagree, they are at liberty to make their own policy.