By Chimezie Anaso
Awka – The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH) Branch, Awka, has lauded Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra for the remarkable improvement in their working conditions.
Mr Afam Udeozor, Chairman, JOHESU-COOUTH, who commended Obiano in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Awka, also thanked the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Basil Nwankwo, for his contribution to the development.
JOHESU is the association of all unions in the sector, excluding doctors.
They include Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals.
NAN reports that consultants and resident doctors at the institution had embarked on series of strikes in the last 18 months, to press home their demand for implementation of Consolidated Medical Salary Scale, Conditions of Service and better diagnostics.
Medical and Dental Consultants at the hospital called off their six weeks-old strike on Jan. 14, following negotiations with the Anambra Government and COOUTH management, after which they reached an agreement.
Udeozor said that JOHESU did not embark on strike throughout the period of negotiation, in spite of the pressure on them, because they believed a better deal could be reached for workers through dialogue.
According to him, members of staff of COOUTH now have Conditions of Service, which was not the case in the past seven years after the institution became a teaching hospital, as well as an Act establishing the teaching hospital.
The union chairman confirmed that based on the conditions of service, no fewer than 500 members of staff had been interviewed and promoted for the first time, including those working there when it was a general hospital.
He said the conditions of service had boosted workers’ confidence by guaranteeing job stability, promotion, career progression, benefits, gratuity and pensions for those who would retire from there.
Udeozor, who described the achievements as products of constructive engagement with authorities, thanked Obiano for granting the demands, and Nwankwo for attracting them in a space of two years.
“We have received increases in our salaries; some of us have been promoted, I cannot say by what percentage for now, until we all receive our letters; I must say there has been tremendous improvement, compared with where we are coming from.
“We saw the sincerity of the CMD and the governor to address these issues, and decided to continue to negotiate with government; we were of the opinion that it had not reached the state of strike, which to us is a nuclear weapon in industrial relations.
“The agitation was not just the doctors; we were constantly talking with government, and we wrote several letters.
“Our problem was not just salary; we needed conditions of service, we needed promotion, we needed to be paying tax that would be remitted to government, to give us tax clearance and retirement benefits, including pensions,” he said.
Udeozor said there were minor issues of right placement of entry points for the workers, which in turn affected their promotion, adding that they were currently being collated and addressed.
He called on the hospital management to make copies of the Conditions of Service available to workers to enable them to study it and know their powers/limitations.
The union chairman thanked the state government for approving additional sum as subvention for COOUTH.
“The government has approved our Conditions of Service, increased the subvention to the hospital, with a view to increasing the take home pay of all the workers at COOUTH, with effect from November 2019.
“The management has implemented some of these things as seen in our increased pay and promotion; but we need to have the copies of the conditions of service, so that we can know the extent of implementation.
“Though there are errors with entry point placements, which in turn affected their promotion, people are still collecting their promotion letters; so, we are currently collating those errors for redress,” Udeozor said.