Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Jobs, has told protesting doctors that if they do not return to work, the Federal Government will stop paying their salaries.
He said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday.
According to Ngige, the Federal Government is allowed by labour law to avoid paying strikers’ wages.
He also claimed that the Federal Government has the possibility of recruiting local physicians.
The National Association of Resident Doctors started a “real and indefinite strike” on Thursday, according to reports.
The doctors are demanding payment of salaries of house officers and an upward review of their N5,000 hazard allowance among others.
The minister, however, said medical council and Office of the Accountant General have been told “what to do” to ensure that the doctors suspend their industrial action.
He said, “Immediately after the holiday, I will talk to them again. I have told the medical council and accountant general what to do to make sure. Only 23 institutions are involved, not all institutions. I want to know what they (medical council and accountant general) have done by Tuesday.
“By Tuesday, I will invite them back. If they become recalcitrant, there are other things I can do. There are weapons in the Labour Laws, I will invoke them. There is no work, no pay.
“Their employers have a role also to keep their business afloat, to keep patients alive. They can employ local doctors. We won’t get there but if we are going to get there, we will use that stick.”
The minister added that the Federal Government would review the current hazard allowance of N5,000 in five weeks’ time without disclosing the proposed figure.
He said, “It is the last NMA President Faduyile that called my attention that the hazard (allowance) was ₦5,000. I raised it with the Finance Minister and the Vice President in the Economic Sustainability Meeting.
“The new hazard allowance will be done in the next five weeks. It is in the Memorandum of Action that we signed. Immediately after the Easter break, I will convene a meeting to look at it holistically.”
Before the doctors began the strike, government had on Wednesday night signed a memorandum of action with them.
The agreement was signed after a seven-hour meeting between the government side and the leadership of NARD at the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment.
However, the strike was effective in hospitals despite the agreement and efforts by the National Assembly as well as the Ministry of Labour and Employment to prevent it.