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The Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, has explained why he will not be meeting with the striking resident doctors who would be going into the second week of their indefinite strike tomorrow.
The minister gave the explanation when he spoke as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today which was monitored by Africa Today News, New York, the minister revealed that holding such meetings was a waste of his precious time arguing that he has better use of his time.
‘I have other things to do,’ he said, adding, ‘I did two conciliations again yesterday, am I going to keep wasting time with them?’.
‘As of the 22nd (of July), they said they were happy, they were praising me, saying I am kind, I am compassionate, advising public servants in Nigeria to behave like me. Where government officials are wrong, I tell them, and I give them an ultimatum and time frame to perfect whatever it is, so why do you go on strike one week after?‘ Ngige questioned.
Reacting to the doctors’ stance that the strike which commenced on Monday, will be indefinite, the minister said ‘No problem! I have other tools permitted for me by labour laws. I invoked section 43 this afternoon’.
Section 43 of the Labour Act states, in part, that for the period a worker withdraws his services, the government or his employers are not entitled to pay.
‘I have communicated it to NARD,’ Ngige said, stressing that ‘they will not receive money for the period they are on strike and it will never count as a period for pensionable position in their career’.
As essential workers, the minister also maintained that they are not expected to go on strike without notifying him at least 15 days prior.
‘They are taking government for a ride and they are playing with people’s lives,’ he added.
While the doctors continue to call on the government to fully take up its responsibilities, the Federal Government continues to insist that most of the issues they have raised are state affairs.
Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire had told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that seven of 12 matters that were raised by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), were the responsibility of state governments.
Consequently, he expects the resident doctors to resume work on Friday and take up the issues with the state governments rather than embark on the nationwide strike as they had done.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK