Ekiti Labour Leaders Disagree over Industrial Action

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    Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

    Crisis is gradually brewing in Ekiti State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), as leaders are divided over a plan to declare industrial action to compel the state governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose to pay up all salaries and benefits.

    Currently, the civil servants are owed five month salary arrears while pensioners, local government workers and primary school teachers are owed eight months.

    The Ekiti Workers’ Rescue Team under the leadership of former Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr. Ayo Aluko and his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Mr. Kolawole Olaiya, had issued a strike threat to the state government over inability to pay workers.

    The union leaders described the present occupants of the seat as docile and compromising, noting that they would not have allowed the situation of workers degenerated to owing of eight month salaries before taking action.
    In a statement yesterday, Olaiya urged Ekiti workers “to promptly embark on strike to press home their demands to prevent a situation whereby they would be dying in silence.

    At a session with journalists in Ado-Ekiti yesterday, the incumbent Chairman of NLC, Mr. Ade Adesanmi exonerated the labour leaders from any compromise in the payment of salary, saying workers would have been sacked, but for their efforts.

    Adesanmi said it was quite unfortunate that the organised labour could not ascertain the actual amount accruing to the state as internally generated revenue.

    He accused the staff of the revenue board of making it difficult “to extract information that can guide the labour leaders on how to appropriate the money to help in salary payment.”

    He added that Aluko and Olaiya lacked the locus standi to issue such threat or call the workers out on strike without labour leaders sanctioning such, describing them as opportunists searching for ways to impress the governor-elect, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

    He said: “When inability to pay salaries began, the present government came with option of downsizing the workforce or allow two salaries to be added to pay one salary. In the interest of our people we took the second option.

    “As labour leaders, we are supposed to be apolitical. And that position we maintain up to now. Now, election has come and gone but the pitiable situation of our members occasioned by non-payment of salaries and pension of senior citizens still persist and it is worrisome.

    “Letters have been written to the outgoing government to set machinery in motion for the payment of backlog of arrears of salaries and pensions to fulfill its promise not to leave Ekiti as debtor. This
    time, we want to hold Governor Fayose by his words.

    “Workers are dying. Pensioners are dying. As a father to all, the governor should ensure that our pains are relieved as soon as possible. We have suggested that from July allocation, government should mop up
    all funds and start paying two month salaries. If there is failure, the organised labour may not be able to guarantee industrial peace and harmony in Ekiti.”

    He, therefore, urged all the state workers “to disregard information from the so called Ekiti State workers Rescue Team. They are pensioners. If they want to fight for anybody, it should be pensioners. So, we do not know whose interest they were protecting, because what they wanted was attention from the incoming government for political patronage.”

    Adesanmi said it was insulting for Fayose to have paid a sum of N3, 000
    into workers’ account prior to the July 14 governorship election when the state government was finding it difficult to pay salaries.

    According to him, money was spent on election. Hence, we are requesting for the payment of workers’ benefits without further delay otherwise industrial harmony may not be sustained in Ekiti.