By Joan Nwagwu
Abuja – The Federal Government said that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had violated section 18 of the Trade Dispute Act of the Federation of 2004 by embarking on strike.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment said this at a conciliation meeting with the leadership of NARD on Wednesday in Abuja.
“I do not want to be legalistic about it, because you have breached section 18 of the Trade Dispute Act, but all these are the sacrifices we have to make, ‘’he said.
It would be recalled that on Aug. 31, a Memorandum of Understanding was reached the minister and the Executives of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), NARD.
Others are Ministry of Health, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation and National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
It would also be recalled that NARD had begun strike on Sept. 4, after reaching a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Ministry of Health on its six-point demand.
“We all signed that agreement which was like a collective bargaining agreement. One of the clauses there was that NARD should revert back to their National Executive Committee (NEC).
“They should present the agreement which was a CBA with a view to shelving the strike that they had proposed.
“We then adjourned the meeting to Nov. 2 within which period we expected the implementation of the items on the agreement.
“We were surprised that at the NEC meeting, the CBA that was entered into was repudiated and the Association embarked on strike.
“So, by section 18 of the Trade Dispute Act of the Federation, T8, T9, 2004, conciliation starts by the Minister.
“No party is allowed to stage a lock out either for employees or embark on strike against the employers.
“In this ministry, we act as conciliators and in such situation. Even though I am a government minister I am a Chief Conciliator. If the government is wrong, I will tell them that they are wrong.
“If the employee is wrong, I will say so and at the end of the day, we will find a way to conciliate and make for an equitable industrial relations”,he said.
He said that as a chief conciliator, it was imperative to reconvene the meeting and look at the CBA, if there were issues that the association felt that their interest were not properly captured.
He noted that NARD would have written to the ministry, adding that the alternative would not have been to embark on a proposed strike, adding “that is not industrial relations.
“I want to commend the President of NMA for making out time to come and all areas of dispute would be resolved in this meeting so that the doctors can go back to their patients.
“For me, any other strike can be handled in a way that you do not care about the little time you lose.
“But in essential services, especially in medical service, we can’t replace lives that were lost.
“That is why we had to reconvene this meeting few hours after you started your strike and we hope that this meeting will resolve the rough edges in the CBA if there are any.
“I assure you even before we start this meeting that we have had a government side meeting and reviewed the agreement and I want to say that within 48 hours, everybody has started implementation of this CBA, ‘’he said.
He said that the Accountant General’s office had done what they were supposed to have done and had remitted the money from the short fall to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Earlier, Mr Mike Ogirima, NMA President commended the minister for reconvening the meeting.
“ We have listened to you and that is why we are here. We hope that the trust that was not there when MoU was signed would be restored at this meeting.
“Because once that trust is restored and evidences of implementations of those six point demands are seen, I hope this will be the shortest strike by Resident Doctors.
The News Agency report s that at the time of filing this report the minister and the stakeholders were still in a closed door meeting.