Says it is not unconcerned about prevailing socio-economic challenges
- Ondo tasks labour over salary impasse
By Paul Obi in Abuja and Olakiitan Victor in Ado Ekiti
Following the ongoing strike simultaneously taking place in Ekiti and Ondo States over non-payment of salaries, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday informed Governors Ayo Fayose and and Olusegun Mimiko to expedite action, as a labourer deserves his wages.
In separate letters to the duo, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, urged both governors to reconsider their stance to save the two states’ economy.
On the Ekiti State strike, Wabba stated that it was incumbent on Fayose to intervene in the strike by workers in the state.
“The issues that led to this strike are well known to you and include the following: non-payment of five months salary arrears and pensions; non-implementation of promotion report since 2014; issues around staff verification exercise in 2015; and refusal of government to disclose the actual monthly internally generated revenue (IGR).
“We are not unconcerned about the prevailing socio-economic challenges in the polity. In our view, however, this does not constitute an acceptable rationale for owing workers and pensioners for so long. A labourer, the Holy Books, tell us, deserves his wages. Stripped of his wages, he is reduced to a slave without rights or privileges,” he said.
Wabba stated that: “In the instant case, the workers and pensioners in the state have been poverised into submission due to the default in the payment of their salaries and pensions to the extent that they are unable to perform their obligations to God, man and the state.
“We believe this painful situation could be minimised, if not entirely reduced, if government gives consideration to managing the cost of governance, raising the IGR profile and appropriately applying the bail-out funds given by the federal government.
“We urge you to bring this strike speedily to an end by commencing the process of payment and establishing a platform for dialogue at which the leadership of the workers at the state level could be availed of what accrues to the coffers of the state monthly.
“We are prepared to sit with you and our members to broker the necessary peace in the interest of industrial harmony and general well-being of the state.”
Regarding the Ondo State crisis, Wabba said what is required is Mimiko’s “urgent re-consideration and intervention in the matter of non-payment of salaries and pensions which has led to a strike in the state. We are not unaware of the present socio-economic challenges in the country.
“However, in our estimation, this should not be an acceptable reason for not paying five months salaries and pensions at the level of the state, and four months salaries and pensions at the level of local government and teachers.
“You do not need a lecture from anyone to know that non-payment of salaries and pensions for months on end, constitutes a crime against the workers, pensioners and their families whose lives and obligations to man and God and their sense of self-worth have been put in jeopardy. As one with activist background and one with whom we have had collaboration, these issues are clear and self-evident, and therefore need no belabouring.
“In these difficult moments in our nation, we no doubt have limited choices. One of these choices is to take a critical look at government expenditure especially in the areas of political appointments, patronage and allied costs.
“We similarly call for the renewed drive in the internally-generated revenue. We have reason to believe that when these initiatives are complimented by the bail-out funds released by the federal government, the twin issues of salaries and pensions will not be such a burden.
“As we noted in our letter to you on the 40th anniversary celebration of Ondo State, you have left a legacy. We urge you to do all that is necessary to sustain this legacy.
“Accordingly, we will not relent in urging you to put in motion the necessary logistics for the commencement of the payment of these salaries and pensions.”
In its response, the Ondo State Government called on the leadership of the NLC to mobilise workers in the country to join in the growing clamour for the restructuring of the country to put an end to the trend of inability of government in the states to pay workers salaries.
The state government, through its Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, commended the workers body for acknowledging the impact of the economic downturn in the country which has made it difficult for over 30 states in the country to pay workers salaries.
Stating government resolve to ensure quick resolution of the impasse occasioned by the non-payment of salaries, the state government however appealed to labour to “as a matter of priority, join the growing clamour for restructuring of the country based on the reality on ground,” adding that the only way out of the present debacle is for everyone and stakeholders alike is to ensure the restructuring of the country to suit the present realities.
“A situation where the federal government which has no land and population is collecting 53 per cent of the total revenue accruable to the country, is evil, unfair, unjust ,unacceptable and crime against humanity.
“The other federating units, 36 states and Abuja including the existing 774 local government areas are left with just 45 percent of the revenue which shows no equity and fairness,” the state said.
The government said NLC should acknowledge the precarious situation most states have found themselves in the last one year, adding that revenue allocation to the state has reduced considerably so much that in the last five months, its gross allocation was between N1 and N2 billion, while most time, the net was less than a billion naira.
It mentioned that in May for instance, N1.3billion was received and the net was a meagre N720m.
“To make the matter worse, we have a wage bill of N3.9 billion for the state workers and N 2.6 billion for local government and this did not include funds for the day to day running of ministries and parastatals and capital projects” it also informed, thus urging the NLC to appreciate that government is not deliberately denying workers their dues.
Saying that Governor Mimiko has ruled out workers retrenchment as an alternative to the challenge on hand as some have suggested, government said it would however want to put it on record that the wage bill of political office holders in the state is about N80million which has no impact on the inability to pay government workers as implied by the NLC, submitting that its work force of 76,601 is the fourth highest in the country.
Maintaining its caring heart status, government said its rich welfare profile was not in doubt, adding that aside from paying the highest minimum wage of N22,000 and the only state that pays leave bonus in the country, it further mentioned that it also pays ‘13th month’ to workers across board at the end of every year, just as it added that teachers are paid 27.5 per cent relativity allowance as well as car loans to workers among other regular welfare packages.
Meanwhile, Ekiti State workers yesterday told Fayose to hold his solidarity strike he declared on Friday in honour of the striking workers, saying: “what we want is our money to alleviate our poverty.”
Fayose had on Friday declared that he had placed himself on indefinite strike in solidarity with the workers, who had been on industrial action for about two weeks over non-payment of five months outstanding salaries.
Fayose said it had always been his wish to respond to payment swiftly, but for dwindling revenue to the state, adding that “now that I share from your pains, I have also placed myself on indefinite strike in solidarity with you and I shall be waiting here for you until you call off,” he said.
But organised labour in the state, who, however, commended the governor for declaring solidarity strike, maintained that what the workers needed is at least payment of three months salaries to actually authenticate the sincerity of the self-imposed strike declared by Fayose. The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in the State, Com. Odunayo Adesoye, who spoke with newsmen in Ado Ekiti, stated that the level of poverty among the civil servants has become burdensome and unbearable to the extent that they have become beggars.
“We appreciate the governor for sharing from our pains and anguish.
But the workers will appreciate and commend him the more if he can pay at least two or three months salaries out of five months owed. “Our situation has gone beyond the governor declaring mere solidarity strike. We need more of actions now than talks because our situation is gradually becoming hopeless.
“Some of us have the intention of going to work, but no money to pay for transport fare. Some of us could not take two square meal a day.
Some could not cook soup with ordinary fish, so our situation has gone beyond what anyone could trivialise.
“But I want to say that we are resolute to fight on, because it is an issue that borders on our welfare, careers and prosperity.
“We are hearing that the federal government want to give grants to states, so if Mr. Governor could pay three months now, it will be easy to use the grant to pay the remaining two months and still help in paying for the subsequent months.
“We appeal to the workers to be law abiding. We want them to be civil, even in the face of provocation. By the grace of God, we shall all rejoice in the end,” he said.