Industrial actions or strike is a refusal to work organized by a body of employees as a form of protest, typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions from their employer.
This act occur when employees feel their rights and welfare is been neglected, tempered with or ignored by their employer and the only viable means which their grievances can be heard and attended is by resolving to strike. Trade unions therefore provide a medium in which the employees’ voice and grievance will get to the employer through a single unit and forum representing a particular profession, specialization or the whole work force having similar or same interest.
Nigeria has suffered from several healthcare workers’ strikes, involving all categories of health workers. Frequent healthcare workers’ strikes result in the closure of public healthcare institutions preventing Nigerians’ access to quality health services.
Health workers strike usually arises due to a breakdown in negotiation as well as disagreements between employer(s) and the employees. Strikes connote a temporary stoppage of work resulting from the pursuance of grievance(s) by a given group of workers. It could equally arise as a result of fall out in negotiation and also as a result of disagreements in the behavoiur of the employer (and their association) and the employees (and their representatives). Though it is usually very difficult to disconnect one from the other as employers at times lock out workers and workers on the other hand can embark on strike actions and other forms of grievance expression. Nigeria health care sector has been rocked by strikes and near misses. Since 1999 till day health care workers across the country have engaged in or threatened various forms of job action.
In some cases the disputes have lasted over a month or more. In all cases the health care system has been thrown into turmoil. In a situation where the healthcare labour relations disputes occurred simultaneously in different parts of the state then these disputes would be seen by all as a symptom of a national crisis of epic proportions, a crisis of healthcare employment.
Doctor and healthcare worker strikes have become a global phenomenon with increasing incidence in many countries and the potential to impact negatively on the quality of healthcare service delivery and the doctor-patient relationship which is based primarily on the fiduciary duty of trust. Healthcare worker not limited to any society, group, or country regardless of their level of socio-economic development. In most democratic societies, strikes are a legitimate part of collective bargaining during labour negotiations.
When healthcare workers embark on strike, three themes appear to dominate the argument; working conditions, infrastructure challenges, optimal management, and salaries. Thus the reasons given by doctors and health care workers for embarking on strikes may be classified under three themes, On-going changes in organization of healthcare services to international standard, failure by government to honour collective bargaining agreements for improved wages and conditions of service, disempowered doctors and healthcare workers who feel unable to provide the best possible care for their patients because of inadequate facilities, drugs and lack of support by employers especially elected government officials.
it becomes a matter of importance following the significance of the sector services in realizing a better and healthy population. There is need to better understand the dynamics facing the medical practices in relation to service delivery. There is therefore a need to better understand the causes resulting to industrial action in the medical sector.
It would appear that strikes may have a disproportionate deleterious impact on doctors too, Striking health care workers frequently face a loss of income, job insecurity, and emotional distress, plus long hours of work for who choose not to participate in the strike action, on the other hand, the patients especially the poor will always bear the burden as they cannot afford access to healthcare in private hospitals.
Government should give serious consideration to the concept of establishing committee to fast track negotiations with the labour and iron out contending issues arising from workers’ demands.
This is with a view to reducing industrial disharmony in the workforce of the nation and forge mutually benefiting partnerships between government, organised labour and the workers, to ensure peace in the country.