Thursday, 3 May 2012

JAF Holds Press Conference in Support of Lagos Doctors and Taxi Operators

Text of the Press Conference by Joint Action Front (JAF) held at CCG, Lagos, Wednesday, May 2nd 2012
Fraternal greetings to our dear media compatriots, we welcome you to this media briefing aimed at addressing two major issues:
1.    Ongoing Strike by medical doctors in Lagos State; and
2.    Lagos State Government’s repression of Taxi operators.

Ongoing Strike by Medical Doctors in Lagos State: The Facts of the Case
The real issue at stake is the failure by Lagos State Government to implement Collective Agreements reached with the doctors. The wage and welfare issue in the disputes bothers on violation of the principles of collective bargaining and the rule of law by Lagos State Government, which started with its partial and distorted implementation of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) in April 2011.
JAF wants Lagosians, Nigerians and the international public to know that the ongoing strike, which first commenced as a warning strike on April 11 – 13, 2012, became inevitable following Lagos Government’s refusal to heed the numerous appeals by the medical doctors in the past 13 months for the full implementation of CONMESS Agreement.
The (CONMESS) was signed into law via the Federal Government Circular SWC/S/04/S.410/220 of 29th September 2009 to serve as a universal salary scale and minimum reference standard of remuneration for all doctors in Nigeria regardless of location or employer. Like every other profession, Conditions of service of workers in the health sector are regulated by ILO Conventions, which employers as a party in Collective Bargaining are bound to respect.
Suffice to recall that the doctors’ 14 weeks strike in August – November 2010 was suspended only when the Lagos State Government agreed to implement CONMESS fully. The strike was resumed in February 2011 for its failure to do so and the strike was called off after the LASG re-affirmed its agreement to implement CONMESS fully.
The areas identified by the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Lagos State, whose cause JAF totally endorsed, in the distortion of the Collective Agreements are:
i.      The demotion of ALL doctors to grade steps 1 and 2 of their various levels contrary to the civil service rules, the agreement on CONMESS and rules and regulations governing wage adjustment in labour matters.
ii.     Reneging on the payment of teaching allowance to GL 10 (House officers) and GL 12 (Medical Officers and Registrars).
iii.    Pegging the Entry level of Medical Officers and Registrars on GL 12 step 1 instead of GL 12 step 2, thus putting medical officers in Lagos Government employment at a disadvantage to their professional counterparts where CONMESS is fully implemented.
iv.   Demoting the entry level for specialists from GL 15 step 4 to GL 15 step 1.
v.    Failure to review its imposition on higher taxes on wages.

Rather than address the issue, the Lagos State Government has resorted to strong arm tactics and use of fascist mobs to suppress the legitimate demands of the doctors. Lagosians and Nigerians should therefore hold responsible the Lagos State Government for the inconveniences and agonies being daily experienced as a result of the legitimate strike.
Health is social responsibility that should be adequately funded by a responsible government. The neglect of health by Lagos State Government is driven by its preference for projects that provide cover for private accumulation of wealth and diverting public fund to service jamborees and patronage to political jobbers, rent-a-crowd CSOs, at the expense of human life and social welfare. Implementing CONMESS fully, according to the Lagos NMA, would have caused the Lagos Government just additional N10 million monthly, compared to its looting spree to line private hands and profiteers.
Thus, JAF appeals to Lagosians, Nigerians and the international public to disregard the ranting of the rent-a-crowd band of groups and individuals fronting for the Lagos State Government in the guise of the all-comers civil society as agents-provocateur who deceive the unsuspecting members of the public and use the struggle as meal tickets. Their days are numbered sooner than later.
The threat to sack and physical assault to members of the Lagos NMA cannot stand in the face of Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria on Freedom of Association and Assembly, and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87, 98 and 158 on workers’ rights and severance, to which Nigeria has remained a signatory and which it is statutorily bound to enforce on cruel employers such as Lagos State Government. The ILO Convention 158 (Article 5(a-c) of 1982, in particular states as follows:
5.      The following, inter alia, shall not constitute valid reasons for termination:
5(a)    Union membership or participation in union activities outside working hours or, with the consent of the employer, within working hours;
5(b)  Seeking office as, or acting or having acted in the capacity of, a workers' representative;
5(c)    The filing of a complaint or the participation in proceedings against an employer involving alleged violation of laws or regulations or recourse to competent administrative authorities”.
·         All so-called prospective recruits should be aware that the same CONMESS is bound to apply to them and should therefore SHUN the futile recruitment exercise. It is a lost battle that Lagos State Government cannot win. Like it lost in 2010, 2011, it shall lose this battle.
·         JAF therefore demands immediate and unconditional implementation of CONMESS in Lagos State. We are resolved to rally Lagosians and Nigerians on MASS ACTION to compel the Lagos State Government to implement the Agreements.

Lagos State Government’s repression of Taxi operators
The Lagos State Government through its agency the Ministry of Transport has embarked on an exploitative and repressive policy to emasculate the regular taxi operators, majority of who belong to the class of the poor. The unlawful policy instrument on regulating the business of taxi in Lagos State is fraught with intent to impose their cronies and fronts as the monopoly of the taxi business, thereby running the poor Lagos taxi operators out of business.
In its obsession and desperation to impose this illegality, which started five years ago, it banned the use of Tokunbo cars for regular taxi business and put in private hands/ fronts a money-spinning ‘deal’ that compelled taxi operators to buy a car worth N4.5 million only from its pool of ‘private contractors’ who work in concert with a compromised section of the leadership of the Lagos State Taxi Drivers and Cabs’ Operators Association (LASTDCOA).
The patriotic segment of the taxi operators who resisted this executive lawlessness as Concerned Members of LASTDCOA have been subjected umpteen attacks by sponsored thugs, and police arrest and detention on framed murder charges; had their operator licenses withdrawn and denied registration of their cars as Taxi.
The Licensing Authority in the State was ‘instructed’ (as admitted by its officers when JAF delegation visited its office) on this illegal act and lawlessness to deny any taxi operator that does not patronise the N4.5m car shady deals registration of their vehicle as taxi.
The State House of Assembly, recently, in its truce between the Concerned Taxi Operators and the Lagos State Commissioner for Transport – Mr. Kayode Opeifa, has also been ambivalent in making pronouncement on this issue, when it became clear to it that no such law exists in Lagos State to deny the poor from running the business of Taxi.
·         JAF demands that the Lagos State Government should in the next 14 days make a clear pronouncement on the illegality of the pronouncement by the Lagos Executive and compel the Licensing Authority not to deny any taxi operator the rights to legitimate business operation or face MASS ACTION.
·         Equally JAF demands the Lagos House of Assembly should call Mr. Kayode Opeifa to order and he should desist from using the Vehicle Inspection Officers, Security operatives and party thugs and sell-out and government apologist’s officers of LASTDCOA to harass and threaten the life of the concerned members.
Dr. Oladipo Fashina           Comrade Abiodun Aremu
JAF Chairperson                 JAF Secretary

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