Resident doctors at the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) took to the streets in the third week of April, as they embarked on a 3-day warning strike to protest pay cuts and arbitrary sacks. Other cadres of health professionals belonging to unions united on the platform of the Joint Health Sector Unions had been on strike in the hospital for six weeks earlier, with similar demands.
The doctors, who are members of the Association of Resident Doctors marched through central Jos with placards which bore inscriptions such as: pay our training allowances now; Stop arbitrary tax deduction from our members; Upgrade our DTA, and; Governor Lalong, come to our aid.
This is a splendid example of the need for mass action as part of industrial strike. It is not governors or governments that will come to our aid. It is only working class-people like us, that can and will stand by us. The bosses concede only because they realize the power we have when we are organised and united.
They then scurry around to give some token or the other, so as to prevent things getting “out of hand” as they put it. This actually means, deflecting our rising power from seeking more than mere tokens to demanding an overthrow of their exploitative system of capitalism.
But defeating the bosses ultimately and building workers’ power to do this requires much more than the splendid example of taking to the streets when we strike, as the resident doctors have done. It requires unity of the working class within our different workplaces as well as across all workplaces. The need for the doctors and other cadres in the sector to become more united, cannot be overemphasized.
Differences between professional groupings exist, but do not have to be allowed to fester into lasting rivalry. It is only the bosses that benefit from such a situation as they can then play us against each other. Unity of JOHESU and ARD in JUTH would be more fruitful in getting the bosses to heed our similar demands. Unity of JOHESU and the NMA nationally is equally necessary at this point in time for the consolidation of workers’ power in the health sector.
This will require a lot of give and take, based on mutual respect. But it is a task that must be confronted to salvage the health system, by building a new social system based on workers’ control and democratic management of health facilities and society.
by Segun Ogun