LADIES and gentlemen of the press, I welcome you to this briefing on behalf of all Nigerian workers as the world marks a special day to honour care workers across the globe.
This year’s Day of Action on Care is coming at a most auspicious time as the world undergoes a very challenging period occasioned by the sudden outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, which has caused a pandemic of scary dimensions across the world; endangering everyone on earth, with care workers and other frontline health personnel encountering more serious risks.
The theme for this year’s event is apt as it highlights the urgent need for massive investment in the care sector.
COVID-19 has fully exposed several countries, including Nigeria as not having invested enough in our health care institutions, putting everyone, both rich and poor at high risks. The theme: ‘’Invest in Care Now!’’ is to drum up demands for heavy investments in the care sector by our government and big businesses, if we must keep a healthy society and productive human resource base.
Apart from the open fact that our health care sector has been neglected for too long, health care workers have been subjected to unfair treatment for too long.
Essential workers as they are often called at crisis times, do not have the necessary personal protective equipment to work with, especially before the outbreak of COVID-19. Government waited for the pandemic before it woke up to the reality of the decadence in our health care sector. Even now, enough has not been done to properly equip the sector and properly kit health workers across the country.
With the massive resources at our government’s disposal, Nigeria can afford to build and effectively equip some of the best hospitals in the world, with global best practices and personnel. But successive governments failed to take health care as a top priority beyond mere policy statements.
We believe now is the time for our government at all levels to demonstrate more than keen attention on the health sector. The current pandemic has shown how important health care is to all sectors and citizens of any country.
Owing to COVID-19 pandemic, our economy has suffered huge losses both in human and capital investment. No country will grow with such avoidable losses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the risks health care workers face daily in the course of their duties as they don’t have adequate and appropriate safety gears, access to their own health care, extended to their families as well as decent pay commensurate with the work they do.
Health care workers also need standard day care centres to keep their children when schools are not open and or infants that are not of school age, to enable them concentrate on their work. It is also important that they are granted paid medical leave that include their immediate families. This will also help to curb the spread of airborne diseases they are exposed to at their workplaces.
We also advocate full membership of trade unions by all health workers, including those in private facilities. This will give them coverage to demand for their rights and enable unions monitor safety standards at the care centres or hospitals. This will form part of our campaign in support of health care workers across the country in both public and private sectors.
We will carry out these campaigns in collaboration with our affiliates in the health sector and also in partnership with willing associations or organisations among civil society organisations.
I also wish to use this occasion to call on the Federal Government to pay the two months salaries owed health workers arising from an industrial dispute in 2018. The recent 7 days warning strike by the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) to resolve the outstanding issues is yet to receive the attention of Government and a social dialogue meeting on this matter is yet to be convened.
We also demand a quick conclusion on negotiations on salary adjustment for JOHESU members in line with alternative dispute resolution processes of National Industrial Court of Nigeria, which all parties involved in the negotiation were subjected to.
Finally, we call for an end to all forms of medical tourism especially by our elected and appointed public officials.
In conclusion, we reiterate our position that government must be ready to invest heavily in the health sector as no country survives without effective health care.
Comrade Wabba, President, Nigeria Labour Congress/ITUC, delivered this address to the press on Thursday, 29th October 2020 to mark this year’s Global Day of Action on Care.