Buhari’s government vows to implement no-work-no-pay policy, says Nigerian doctors’ strike illegal

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The Federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari has warned the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) against its planned strike action, saying there would be no payment for doctors absent from work during the period.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, declared the position of the Federal Government on Tuesday, in Abuja, shortly after receiving a letter of notification from the NARD executive on the planned strike.

Recall that the resident doctors in Nigeria commenced a 5-day warning strike at midnight of May 16, 2023.

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Ngige, in a statement signed by Olajide Oshundun, Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, declared the planned strike as illegal.

Ngige, however, 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 a five-day warning strike.

“There is nothing like a 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.

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“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 ad-hoc people for those five days and they will use the money of the people, who went on strike to pay the ad-hoc 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,” he said.

He added that the people seen at work are the ones to receive their pay. If you don’t work, there will be no pay.

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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 (MRTF).

He added that since health is on the residual list, where both the Federal and State Governments have the powers to legislate.

The Minister also stated that the job of the Federal Government was to make policy and where the states disagree, they were at liberty to make their own policy.

He noted that the Federal Government cannot bully the states into domesticating the MRTF if they do not want to.

Regarding the issue of immediate payment of the MRTF to their members, he said it was appropriated in the 2023 budget but has not been released, as the 2022 budget was still running, adding that those in 2022 have all been paid.

Ngige denied the claim by NARD that the Federal Government did not pay minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears to their members.

He added that all workers in the Education and Health Sectors, and even the defence agencies benefited from the adjustment.

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