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Abia hospitals still under lock as health workers demand salary arrears

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By Yolamchi Ukaga, Aba

Public hospitals in Abia state are still under lock, as the state health workers have refused to call off their ongoing industrial action until their outstanding arrears of salaries are cleared by the government.

Abia health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), embarked on indefinite strike on November 4, 2020, over nonpayment of 15 months arrears of salaries for workers of health management board, 18 months salary arrears for workers of Aba General Hospital, including doctors; 3 months salary arrears for local government health workers, among others.

The workers are also seeking the implementation of Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS), as approved by the federal government.

Comrade Chikezie Echeta, chairman, health workers union, Abia state health management board, told Orient Weekend that the union would not call off the strike until they are paid outstanding arrears of salaries.

According to him, “We are demanding for the release of our 15 months arrear of salaries”. He, however, stated that they were not insisting on getting the total sum once, because of the state of the economy, but urged the government to clear some months and commit to clear the remainder at a stipulated time.

“We know that things are hard. We just came out from COVID-19 lockdown and it affected the economy badly. But we want government to pay us at least 6 months arrears and gradually clear the balance.

He insisted that the strike would continue until they get positive response from government.

He noted that a recent meeting convened by government to dialogue over their grievances did not hold, because, the state governor was not on seat.

“The state government invited the state union executive on Monday, November 16, 2020, for talks, but unfortunately, the meeting did not hold, because they were informed that the governor was not on seat. “They waited from 12.00 noon to 6.00pm and left with anger.”

JOHESU commenced indefinite strike following the expiration of the 15 days ultimatum given to Abia state government over unpaid salary arrears and sundry issues.

The group, in a communiqué issued after its meeting in Umuahia, on November 4, 2020, which was signed by Comrade Okoro Ogbonnaya, chairman, and Aligwe Chidi, secretary, JOHESU, Abia state chapter, noted that they were irked by nonpayment of salary to workers of state owned health institutions.

The JOHESU chairman urged the state government to fully implement the new national minimum wage for health workers, as well as stop forthwith the slashing of their salaries. He explained that the last meeting with the state government ended in a deadlock, which necessitated the strike and appealed to the government to save the situation.

Meanwhile the Abia state government says it has set up a committee headed by Dr. Aham Ukoh, the state’s commissioner for finance, to find lasting solution to the problem of non-payment of salaries to some parastatals in the state.

The affected parastatals are Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB), Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, Abia State Hospital Management Board (HMB), Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu and Abia State College of Health and Management Sciences, Aba.

According to an official statement, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu mandated the committee to complete within two weeks to ensure immediate disbursement of the first tranche of payments to the affected workers in the parastatals.

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