C’River NLC Threatens Strike

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• Issues one week ultimatum

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Cross River State chapter, has issued a seven-day ultimatum, starting from yesterday to the state Governor, Ben Ayade, threatening to resume strike if Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached between both parties on July 2, 2017, was not implemented to the latter.

Addressing journalists yesterday at the end of a State Executive Council (SEC) meeting, Chairman of NLC, John Ushie, said the state has failed to honour the agreement.

Workers in the state had embarked on an indefinite strike on July 2 after both parties signed the agreement.

“We express our disappoint with the government for failure to honour some critical aspects of the memorandum of understanding that was signed on July 2, 2017. Among them are some of the issues of the failure of government to pay gratuity to retirees from June 2013 till date.

“We are also aware that the state government, after that action that was suspended on July 2, had agreed to pay that week. The 2013 retirees were to be paid off their gratuity without any further delay or pressure. But, we are here again to tell the whole world that that agreement was not kept and the government has jettisoned the agreement again, which has led to this meeting today (yesterday) as directed by the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on November 16.

“At the meeting, the NEC directed all state councils where the government has not implemented fully, the payment of salaries, arrears of salaries, arrears of pensions and gratuities, to go back and put into a force a strategy that is complied with. And that was done on the basis of the fact that the Paris Club refund has been released to all the state governments, and that money was meant specifically to pay arrears of salaries, gratuities and pension.

“But permit me to mention here that for Cross River State, specifically from 2015, did not own any arrears on salary. But, we are aware that they owe arrears of pension and gratuities. And so for us as labour, our thinking was that when this money came, government was to use it to clear the arrears and therefore use others for the payment of salaries as it was agreed initially. But our disappointment is that the state government did not keep to that agreement and therefore reneged on it.

“And today, we are still discussing the issue of gratuity of 2013, which the governor himself told us that the second Paris Club refund that was coming was to be used for. Today, as it stands, the government of Cross River State owes gratuity from 2013 till date, and soon we enter 2018, workers continue to retire without their entitlements,” Ushie said.

The NLC said the government has also failed the workers in terms of the implementation of the workers promotion; regularising the state payroll system; selective payment of impress to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and failure to return the Etim Edem Motor Park to the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), which were all part of the MOU.

The NLC chairman said every attempt to get the state government to adhere to the terms of agreement has failed.
According to NLC, “Government has failed to regularise the state payroll. Since October 2016, they employed a consultant to handle payroll, and we pointed out that they will not be able to handle the payroll because we already had in place a payroll that was superb and being copied by other states in this federation.

“Today, the state is paying half salaries, distorted salaries, even workers who gain promotion get to earn even lower than what they were earning before, as a result. Also, there has been this conflict that the Accountant General’s office would pay salaries, and in another month, the office of the Head of Service would pay, and this confusion has set it for workers not have their accurate salaries which has brought untold sufferings to them. The government should make haste to correct this immediately.
“SEC also views with dismay the selective payment of imprest to the MDAs. We have said it that no MDA would function properly without imprest and one of the things that would make MDAs work hard and deliver is the imprest, and where there are selective or no payment at all, it therefore means the civil service is gradually grinding to a halt.

“SEC has given the state government a seven day ultimatum with effect from December 13, 2017, to fully implement the MOU. Failure to do it, we shall resume our strike which was suspended on July 2.”