Doctors’ Strike: Keyamo urges govt to honour agreements with workers

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By Chimezie Godfrey

Festus Keyamo, Minister of State for Labour and Productivity has urged the Nigerian Government to honour agreements with workers.

The Minister gave the advice on Monday in Abuja, at the opening ceremony of the Capacity Workshop on Advocacy Communication Skills for Women Economic Collectives(WEC) in Nigeria.

Keyamo expressed displeasure over the ongoing strike in the nation’s health sector, but stressed that these issues could be resolved if there is mutual understanding and respect for agreements between government and workers.

He Minister who decried the fact that government on its has equally contributed to the disagreement between it and workers urged that agreements with workers should be respected.

He said,”I think government should live up to its responsibility to the workers, agreements that are signed should be respected.

“Most of these agreements we inherited them, it used to be that in the past governments used to enter into agreements that are not working just because they wanted to get over the problem.If you get into an agreement with workers, it’s bounding duty on government to respect those agreements.

“On the procedure for airing your grievances, if for instance, like we do in the Ministry of labour, your strike is apprehended, apprehension means stop. Strike is not a war, it is to instigate dialogue, the end of every conflict is to instigate dialogue, is to come to the table.

“And so, once the labour ministry apprehends a strike, we appeal to labour to end the strike because we in the labour ministry we are not the ones causing strike.In the Ministry of Labour we are the peace makers, we are not the ones having problem with workers.

“We see strike everywhere, and we keep asking what is the ministry of labour doing? Health workers strike, the problem is the ministry of health, ASUU is ministry of education.Once we noticed that strike has been announced, we quickly apprehend the strike by calling them immediately to the round table.

“And I want to say this very clearly, that I and my colleagues, we have never abdicated that responsibility.

Keyamo appealed to workers on their part to also honour the directives of the labour ministry, especially when it apprehends a strike, while he advised them to desist from the intention to put those in power under pressure saying that such is a miscalculation.

“The intention to put those in power under pressure is a miscalculation, these are people who are capable of taking their children to school abroad, and as such, it is the everyday Nigerians, like I and you that will suffer. So, putting such. undue pressure on leaders is wrong.” he said.

The Minister therefore appealed to health workers to suspend the strike especially at this time of the outbreak of the Delta variance of COVID-19, adding that it will be dangerous for them to be on strike at these critical times.

He commended JOHESU whom he said are their partners in progress, while assuring that they are going to take their cooperation for granted.

On the advocacy for the economic empowerment of women in Nigeria, Keyamo investing in women’s economic empowerment will engender gender equity, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.

He said,”Firstly, I want to seize this opportunity to appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari led government for its keen interest and policy actions at women empowerment in Nigeria.

“There is ample evidence that financial and economic inclusion of women increases GDP by 2 to 3 percent. Financial economic inclusion is instrumental and fundamental to strengthening women’s rights and enabling women to have control over their lives and exert influence in society.

“It is about creating just and equitable societies. Investing in women’s economic empowerment is geared towards gender equity, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.”

The Minister appreciated the managements of dRPC and MINILS led by the new DG Comrade Issa Aremu for the wonderful partnership initiative which he believes is a significant contribution to national development and particularly the medium term economic plan of the government.

“I want to commend this collaboration and the synergy of both organisations. This is the kind of partnership between government and non-state actors that the current government is pushing and nurturing across all sectors.

“It is our believe that diverse actors working together with unity of purpose is the only way we can ensure that the economy of this country recovers fast, strong and better, not just for women economic collectives (WEC) but for the whole nation.

“I want to encourage MINILS and dRPC to seek out further areas of cooperation in the areas of training and research collaboration and also engage with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FMLE) in furtherance of thematic issues around women’s financial inclusion and women economic empowerment.

“Together, we surely have a long way to go and I assure dRPC and the Director-General of MINILS that my office is also open to working with you on issues that would help propel the economy development trajectory of the country to greater heights.”

In his remark, the Director General, Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS), Comrade Issa Aremu commended President Buhari for appointing him to head the labour Institute, adding that his appointment has added to various labour friendly policies in the country.

“My appointment once again adds to various labour- friendly policies of President Buhari. If you add three bail outs for state governments to meet their salary obligations led by CBN, the signing of N 30, 000 Minimum Wage act, retention of jobs in public sector despite two recessions and COVID-19 lockdowns, President Buhari is undoubtedly committed to mass decent jobs for workers.

“Through Minister Keyamo SAN, President Buhari also created 1000 jobs in each of the 774 jobs for the youths. Some hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs have been created through the revolution going on rail sector.

“For sustainable jobs through Industrialization, I bear witness to various interventions by the CBN and fiscal authorities to revive various industries and ensure beneficiation and value addition.

“The $2.8bn 614km-long natural gas pipeline Ajaokuta Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline being developed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) flagged up by the President last year is the largest gas project for Industrialization in Africa.

“The recent revival of Portharcourt refineries, further points the fact that the President is committed to return Nigeria to the path of Industrialization and development,” he said.

Comrade Aremu further noted,”The solidarity message from development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) is however unique. It was backed with “cashable 3-in-one Cheque” for “timely lower hanging 3 fruits” to reposition the Institute in line with its founding mandate and the expectations of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“The first promissory note from dRPC deals with rebuilding the website of the Institute to ensure regular online presence with our stakeholders. Thanks to dRPC. Today our hitherto passive website is being reactivated.

“The second “Cheque” is what we are “cashing” today. dRPC persuaded its funders, (Bill Gates and Malinda) to partner with (MINILS) in supporting the commendable recent initiatives of national and state governments to strengthen women’s economic collectives in Nigeria.”

He pointed out that the MINILS was specifically privileged with a mandate to call for applications from women leaders of economic collectives to participate in the 2021 Advocacy and Communication for economic empowerment in Abuja.

According to him, the MINILS in collaboration with dRPC painstakingly selected 35 women leaders from as many as 228 applicants from hundreds of cooperative societies; associations of market women and women traders; trade unions, associations of producers; and women’s groups running micro, small and medium enterprises.

On the Doctors’ strike, Comrade Aremu said that this is time for dialogue, as he called on stakeholders in the health sector to play by the rules.

“As industrial strike by resident doctors enters second week with the permission of my Honorable Minister I hereby demand for a call (to be) made for an urgent reform of the industrial relations system in the country’s health sector for sustainable peace and service delivery.

“All stakeholders in the health sector must play by the knowledge based rules of collective bargaining, social dialogue, mediation and conciliation to prevent incessant work stoppages in hospitals with attendant costs to lives,” he stressed.