The federal government yesterday urged the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve its planned warning strike billed to start today.
Describing the planned strike as illegal, it vowed to implement the no work no pay rule should the action go ahead.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, received a letter from the NARD executive notifying him of the impending industrial action.
Reacting to the May 16 letter, Ngige said he contacted the Minister of Health, who informed him that a meeting has been scheduled by his office with the doctors today.
In a statement by Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, the minister advised the doctors to avail themselves of the opportunity for dialogue with their employer, rather than embarking on a warning strike unknown to law.
He said federal government has the right to also withhold the salaries of the doctors for the duration of the warning strike.
Ngige said the government would use the money to pay ad-hoc workers that would be employed by the teaching hospitals.
The minister said: “I will advise them to attend the meeting with the Minister of Health tomorrow. I will also advise them very strongly not to go on a five-day warning strike. There is nothing like a warning strike. A strike is a strike.
“If they want to take that risk, the options are there. It is their decision. They have the right to strike. You cannot deny them that right. But their employer has another right under Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, to withhold their pay for those five days.
“So, if the NARD has strike funds to pay their members for those five days, no problem. The Health Minister will instruct the teaching hospitals to employ adhoc people for those five days and they will use the money of the people who went on strike to pay the adhoc doctors.
“That is the ILO principles at decent work, especially for those rendering essential services. Lives should be protected.
“One of my sons is a resident doctor. I will advise him to go to work and sign the attendance register. The people seen at work are the ones to receive their pay. If you don’t work, their will be no pay.”
On one of the five demands of the doctors, Ngige said the Federal Government lacked the powers to compel the states to domesticate the Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), since health was in the Residual List, where both the federal and state governments have the powers to legislate.