• NLC rallies against Gov Okorocha’s anti-workers’ policies
  • JOHESU mobilises against unjust closure of FMC Owerri

by Nnamdi Ikeagu

imo.workersWorkers are not letting down in resistance to anti-workers’ policies and high handedness by the Imo state government and the Federal Medical Centre Owerri management. Nigeria Labour Congress is organising a mass rally on January 13 against Governor Rochas Okorocha, while the Joint Health Sector Unions has vowed to resist the questionable closure of the Federal Medical Centre.

Speaking with Socialist Worker, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, who heads the NLC’s organising and industrial relations department said the protest march is to draw national and global attention to “unfair labour practices” of the state government. These include: arbitrary reduction of wages and salaries by 30%, mass sacks and privatisation.

According to Comrade Ugboaja, the rally will commence at the NLC Imo state secretariat. There will then be a procession to the government house to present labour’s petition after which the protesting workers would move to Heroes Square for the closing rally.

The Imo APC state government’s attacks has been against workers in all sectors of the economy. But those worst hit have been healthcare providers. It can be recalled that mid-last year, the Imo state government privatized almost 600 public health facilities which included primary health care centres, general hospitals and specialist hospitals.

Health workers employed in those facilities by the state were immediately sacked. There was stiff resistance. Anti-riot police were drafted in by the state governor, but the workers did not budge, thus winning a victory, which the government now wants to reverse.

Assaults in health workers in Imo have not been only from the state government. There has been a running battle between workers in the Federal Medical Centre Owerri and the corrupt management of the centre. Dr Angela Uwakwem, the Medical Director is reputed for her highhandedness and penchant for corruption.

The branches of MHWUN, NANNM & NUAHP in the FMC exposed her shady dealings in July last year. They documented amongst other acts by her: employment racketeering, ghost workers and overblown budgets, misappropriation of up to N500m, internally generated revenue siphoned and support for the use of the centre’s funds for support of the PDP gubernatorial candidate’s elections.

There was a unanimous resolution of the workers that Dr Uwakwem must go. After a long drawn strike, the Federal Ministry of Health intervened and a fact finding committee was setup. Everything possible was done to manipulate the committee to sweep Dr Uwakwem’s misdeeds under the rug. The workers remained unshaken in their resolve to end impunity in the centre.

The response of the new minister of health in December, was to temporarily close down the FMC. The reason, brazenly stated was to avoid a contagious effect of workers’ fightback. Obviously, despite the anti-corruption speak of the APC federal government, it is more bothered by the spectre of workers’ power than the malaise of corruption!

Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, the National President of MHWUN and Chair of JOHESU has assured the workers in the centre that the national unions will not fold their hands. JOHESU has demanded the reopening of FMC Owerri and maintains the stance that Dr Uwakwem must go.

Solidarity is of the essence for FMC Owerri and Imo state workers. The mass mobilisation of January 13 will definitely serve as a tonic for them in the struggles they have been waging against insensitive and corrupt bosses. SWL fully supports these heroic workers and urges condemnation of the anti-workers’ policies they are fighting against. Persistence and consistence are needed to defeat the bosses. Persevere in the struggle comrades: dare to struggle and dare to win!