The General Meeting of the Medical Guild, the umbrella body of all doctors employed by the Lagos state government, was held on Wednesday, December 31, 2009 with a resolve by the overwhelming majority - more than 90% present and voting - to embark on an indefinite strike action as of January 5, 2009. This is with the aim to press home the demands for an improved salary package based on the CONTISS Salary Scale, which has already been implemented by the Federal Government and a number of states in the federation since January 2007.
Aside from the demand for the implementation of the CONTISS scale, which is supposed to enhance the salaries by almost 50% across the board, other demands of the Medical Guild include a better working environment in the hospitals, particularly with regard to conducive consulting rooms, clinics, operation theaters, etc., as against the present situation of doctors "taking call-duties in filthy, unhygienic, ramshackle rooms and hospitals still being run in darkness, clinics run in dark and hot rooms with equipment in various states of dilapidation."
Other demands are for immediate stoppage of harassment and victimization of the Guild officials via posting to remote places and witch-hunting of members via removal from postgraduate residency training programmes at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
Government ignored demands
The present posture of the Medical Guild stems from the fact that for more than one year these demands have been made on the government, but there has been no obvious or appreciable response.
The Governor Raji Fashola-led government officials in Lagos, particularly the state commissioner for health, Dr Jide Idris, and co, chose to ignore the leadership of the Medical Guild and their demands and had instead sponsored openly an opposition movement, within the Medical Guild, that is facilitated with finance through the state officialdom and the government-appointed hospitals' Medical Directors. However, the move to replace the so-called "irritant militant" leadership of the Guild failed with the recent re-election, by a very sizeable majority of voting members at the last Annual General Meeting in November 2008, of the present executive committee led by Chairman, Dr Ibrahim Olaifa, for another one-year tenure.
Going by the militant mood exhibited at the New Year Eve meeting for the commencement of the strike action after the expiration of the earlier 21-day ultimatum previously issued by the Medical Guild Representative Council after its December 13, 2008 meeting, the strike clearly has full backing of the ranks.
Beyond being a Doctors' strike, the CONTISS Strike action will subsequently act as an opener to other brewing revolts by workers in the state, who have been suffering hitherto in silence. And this mood cuts across all layers of the workforce, including those within and outside the health service. In the final analysis the doctors' strike must strive to link up with these layers in order to broaden the frontier of wage agitation. Working class solidarity across divisible lines will definitely make the course a stronger one!
Can the government pay as demanded?
Yes, it can! Given the billions of Naira coming to the state from the federation account monthly allocations and the ever increasing internal revenue generation from the endless taxes and levies coming to the state coffers, the Lagos state government has more than enough resources to meet the demands of the doctors and more.
Moreover, the scandalous huge salary packages for the political office holders and the massive ramifying multibillion naira beautification projects of flower-planting and road paving/decoration is another indication that the state is in a viable financial position to also beautify the present ugly pockets of its workforce as being demanded by the Lagos Doctors under the aegis of the Medical Guild.
What is needed for the struggle to succeed is the resoluteness of the leadership of the Medical Guild to organize and mobilise its rank and file to participate actively in the strike action via regular meetings and picketing while the strike lasts. This should be linked with mobilising for solidarity support from other NMA affiliates. With this, victory would be assured.
Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!
Lagos, January 2, 2009