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Monday, August 8, 2022

Public health workers defiant over strike despite gov’t’s threat of sanctions

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By Tabora Bojang

The Association of Public and Environmental Health Officers has vowed to continue its industrial strike until their demands are fully met, defying orders from the Ministry of Health to call off the action or face serious consequences.

The Association embarked on a sit-down strike dubbed ‘no pay no work’ two weeks ago after the government failed to honour promises to settle their allowances during their earlier protest in May.

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But in a statement signed by the permanent secretary Ministry of Health, Muhamadou Lamin Jaiteh issued on Tuesday, the Ministry warned that officers who fail to report to work latest yesterday [Wednesday] would face severe penalties including stoppage of their salaries.

The PS explained that the ongoing strike is detrimental to the citizenry and accused the Association of misleading workers into defiance to continue to strike while efforts are underway to address the allowance crisis.

“The ministry had extensive discussions with the executive members of the Association explaining to them the positive steps the government is taking to ensure that the extra allowances are paid to the public health and other health workers.  These steps are very near in completion but to our disappointment it looks like the executive members are not relaying the correct information to the general membership, thereby misleading the general membership into continuing the strike which is detrimental to the citizenry. We have also noticed that some members of the executive committee are not happy any time we are close to a solution in our discussions with them. This goes further to imply that such members do not have the interest of the association or the country at heart. We therefore urge all striking members under the Ministry to report back to work with immediate effect. To this end, all Unit Heads are hereby urged to write down the list of staff who fail to show up for work starting tomorrow Wednesday 29 June 2022 at 8am. Thereafter, administrative actions will be taken against those who are deliberately absent from work including stoppage of their salary and other stops,” the Ministry warned.

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Reacting to the threats, the Association in a statement said it is utterly disappointed in the Ministry’s statement, saying it is primarily geared towards frustrating their efforts in finding an amicable solution to the situation and turning the membership against the executive.

“We want to make it clear that the current sit-down strike was a unanimous agreement by the APEHOG membership during an emergency congress and we are currently implementing what was unanimously agreed by the membership. Hence, no amount of external threat or intimidation can dictate the decision of the association regarding the current industrial action. The executive has been communicating on a regular basis with the general membership on the very few engagements with the concerned authorities as opposed to some of the claims highlighted in the letter. Many other compromises done by the association and the executive in particular all geared towards making the strike end in the soonest time possible. We would like to remind all public health officers that we have sailed too far to be dictated or intimidated. We repeat that one cannot have an omelette without breaking an egg. We therefore urge all Public Health Officers to disregard the release and be reminded that our motto of ‘touch one, touch all’ remains firm. The executive will communicate to the membership to resume work as of our own accord depending on the engagements that are ongoing both within and outside the cadre,” the striking health workers said.

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