El-Rufai threatens to sack health workers if they strike over a lack of PPE and pay deductions

GOVERNOR Nasir-El Rufai has warned health workers in Kaduna State that they will be sacked from their jobs if they embark on industrial action to protest their working conditions during this pandemic even if it leads to the virus spreading uncontrollably.


Kaduna State ranks number 10 out of Nigeria's 36 states in terms of coronavirus patients with 17 affected people, of which four have died. However, the state is struggling to deal with the pandemic as its health workers lack vital equipment and as a result the Congress of Health Workers Unions and Associations in the state have threatened to go on strike.


They had among other things, demanded the refund of the 25% of their salaries that were cut- by the state government and the provision of personal protective equipments (PPE) to enable them do their jobs better. Rather than respond to their demands, Governor El-Rufai has introduced a register to be signed by those willing to work despite the salary-cut and warned that anyone who fails to show up faces the sack.


Muyiwa Adekeye, Governor El-Rufai's spokesman, said the government would not be misled into granting health workers any special status. He added that the government rejects the strike threat and would regard persons who fail to show up at their assigned places of work as having forfeited their employment.


Mr Adekeye said: “Every health worker that is willing to work is required to sign the register at the ministry of health and the health institutions to which they are deployed. It is instructive that the strike action was announced on the same day that many health workers were showing evidence on social media of the N450,000 they had received as an April 2020 incentive.


“To declare strike action amidst the Covid-19 pandemic is naked blackmail, based on the mistaken assumption that the state government will reward irresponsible conduct by some health workers with surrender. Government will not be browbeaten by strike action into excluding health workers from the sacrifices being made by other public servants who are donating 25% of their salary to a fund for the provision of palliatives for low-income, poor and vulnerable persons that are impacted by the lockdown.”


He added that the government would keep its health facilities running and protect staff that are willing to work, insisting that the health ministry has been directed to ensure that facilities run and provide services to the public. Mr Adekeye said the state government would not be misled into granting health workers a special status among public servants, stressing that the consequences of concessions made along such lines by previous governments had created a sense that some public servants are more precious than others.


Mr Adekeye added: "Salary deductions introduced in April 2020 apply to everyone who works for the Kaduna State government, from the governor to the most junior civil servant with a take-home pay of more than N50,000 monthly. It is a comprehensive show of solidarity and applies to everyone employed by the government and therefore does not exclude health workers.”


He explained that health workers are being paid additional amounts as part of an occupational safety initiative as high risk staff and that they are receiving a compensation of N15,000 per day. According to Mr Adekeye, in addition, the Kaduna State government has paid premiums for an enhanced insurance package for health workers and raised the death and disability benefits to N5m and N2.5m, respectively.