By Laleye Dipo
The Niger State Government and organised labour in the state are set for another showdown following the decision of the government to slash the salaries of workers by 50 per cent.
Government told officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) at a meeting held in the office of the Head of Service on Monday that it could no longer pay 100 per cent salaries to workers effective from the end of this month (November).
The meeting, which was attended by all members of the State Executive Council save for the Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, and his Deputy, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, as well as majority of permanent secretaries, was addressed by the state Accountant General, Alhaji Abdullahi Saidu.
THISDAY learnt from a source close to the meeting that Saidu explained that the state now records a very drastic decline in its income from the Federation Account and internally generated revenue (IGR), a development that has pushed the state to a financial crisis.
Saidu, it was learnt, said another reason for the decision of government was the series of deductions from source which has depleted the income of the state.
It was learnt that the accountant general informed the meeting that if the state paid 60 per cent of the salaries to its workers, it will still go into about N1.7 billion deficit which is why the government plans to slash the salaries by 50 per cent.
The accountant general, who was said to have pleaded with organised labour for its cooperation, reportedly assured them that the 50 per cent deductions will be refunded immediately the economy of the state improves.
THISDAY gathered that officials of the state NLC and those of the TUC emphatically told the government team that the policy is not agreeable to labour.
They were said to have told the government team that “salary payment is a first line charge”, as such, whatever the government got, it should pay 100 per cent salaries and source for funds for other projects and programmes.
It was learnt that labour on Tuesday summoned an emergency congress where the issue was put before the delegates.
The congress rose from the emergency meeting held at the Labour House rejecting the decision of government but asked all the affiliate unions to return to their members to hold congresses where the issue should top the agenda and gave the unions till 6pm on Wednesday to submit in writing the decisions of the unions.
THISDAY learnt that as at 2pm on Wednesday, at least 28 affiliate unions have returned negative report and also backed the NLC in whatever step it feels it can take to make the government bow.
The NLC and the TUC officials are expected to meet on Thursday where a final decision on the next line of action will be taken.
Efforts to get the comments of the state NLC Chairman, Yakubu Garba, was not successful, as he could not be reached on his cell phones neither was he in the office.
When contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Idris, promised to get back to THISDAY, but did not do so as at the time of filing this report.
Labour had on July 9, 2020 embarked on a three-day warning strike when government slashed workers’ salaries by 30 per cent for reasons similar to the ones given presently by government.
It was learnt that the 30 per cent deducted then for two months have not been refunded to the workers.