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Unpaid salaries: Oyo, Osun workers begin strike

Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi and Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola

Groaning under crushing economic hardship caused by unpaid salaries, workers in Oyo and Osun states have embarked on strike.

Specifically, labour unions in the two states directed their members to embark on strike in order to press home demands for the payment of owed salary arrears.

In Osun, the state Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Jacob Adekomi, who addressed a news conference in Osogbo, on Monday, called on workers to begin a strike today after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum given to the state government.

Adekomi, who read from a text said, “That the 14-day ultimatum issued to the government expired today (Monday, May 25, 2015).

“That an indefinite strike action be commenced by all the workers in the State of Osun as from Tuesday, May 26, 2015 due to the failure of the government to accede to our legitimate demands, as contained in our letter to the government dated May 12, 2015.

“The indefinite strike action will be total. Workers are advised to stay at home while pressing home our demands. That no worker should resume work until an anouncement is made by the labour bodies to that effect.”

The labour union leader said that apart from the salary issue, the state government had refused to remit the contributory pension deductions from workers’ salaries to their respective retirement saving accounts.

A factional state Chairman of the NLC, Mr. Gambi Yusuf, when contacted said his faction was in support of the strike since it was aimed at fighting for the right of the entire workers in the state.

He said, “I am in support of it provided it is to fight for the welfare of workers. It is okay by me. But these are the same set of people who said before that the government did not owe them.”

But the state Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, has appealed to the workers to show understanding with him on the issues.

Speaking through his media aide, Semiu Okanlawon, the governor said he had tried to ensure a prompt payment of workers’ salaries despite the decline in allocation to the state before the issue degenerated.
Okanlawon said, “At the heart of all these issues being raised is insufficient fund. And regardless of the terrible revenue crisis that has led us to this state as a country, we must bear in mind the very prudent manner the Aregbesola’s government has managed the affairs of Osun.

“Therefore, workers can be certain that once the revenue complications are solved, all these issues will vanish. And as a responsible government, we still appeal to workers to show understanding – bearing in mind that at times when even other states had started experiencing delays, Osun used all it had to ensure workers did not feel the pang of the national revenue crisis.”

Other unions present at the news conference included the NLC, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Nigeria Senior Civil Service Union, Nigeria Union of Journalists, among others.

The Oyo State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday said that in line with the directive of the national leaders of NLC, all workers in the state should begin an indefinite strike on Tuesday (today).

Chairman of the union in the state, Waheed Olojede, stated after a meeting of the state executive that the action became necessary after the state government owed months of workers’ salaries and retirees’ pensions. Olojede revealed however that the state council had been in negotiation with the state government for some months on the issue and that an agreement had yet to be reached when the national body of the NLC directed that the strike should commence.

He said, “You are all aware sufficiently that in the last few months in Nigeria, many state governments have owed salaries and pensions of their workers. Oyo State is one of those states. In the last few months, we have commenced negotiation with the state government on how best to pay outstanding salaries and pensions of the workers and retirees.

“We were on the process until last Friday when the national headquarters of the NLC issued a directive, instructing all state councils of NLC where governments are owing salaries and pensions to begin industrial action as from today, Monday 25, 2015. We have got in touch with the national leadership of the NLC to make clarification on the action.

“Even when we notified them that the state NLC had commenced negotiation with the state government, the directive from the national headquarters insisted that notwithstanding our local arrangement, we must comply and begin industrial action. Because of this and the fact that no state council has the power to defy the authority of the national NLC, we immediately called a meeting of the state executive to review the directive and our process of negotiation.

“We therefore resolve that because of the law that established the NLC, no state congress is higher than the national body. Arising from this position, we have therefore resolved that we are left with no other option but to direct all workers in Oyo State to respect the national directive and stay at home from Tuesday (today).”

While expressing the optimism that the negotiation with the state would still resolve the issue, Olojede called on the state government not to abandon the negotiation, adding that as soon as a resolution was reached, the state council would approach the national headquarters of the NLC with a view to getting the permission for the workers to resume work.

“We appeal to the state government to show understanding on this directive. The only condition that can make us appear before the leadership of NLC is to have with us a mutually agreed Memorandum of Understanding spelling out how best and quickly salary and pension arrears can be paid and how the state will continue to pay them promptly,” he added.

NUT begins strike in FCT
Meanwhile, primary and secondary school pupils in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, were on Monday sent home following an indefinite strike called by the Nigeria Union of Teachers.

The union went on strike over some policies adopted by the FCT administration that were not favourable to teachers.

The chairman, FCT Wing of NUT, Mr. Hassan Jibir, toldThe PUNCHthat the union had directed its members “to remain at home and schools closed definitely until their demands are met by the FCT administration.”

The contentious issues include reinstatement of 27.5
per cent Teacher Salary Structure allowance; non-release of promotion for teachers for years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and non-payment of 100 per cent rent allowance to teachers.

He said, “Some categories of teachers and supervisors and those working in the offices were affected by the TSS. In 2012, six secondary schools were affected while for 2013/2014, all primary, junior secondary and senior secondary school teachers were affected.
‘For 2015, they are supposed to start the process but have not done that till now.”

Jibir also called on the Minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed, to do the right thing so as to avert a crisis in the FCT.

According to him, the minister did wrong with the policy on the rent allowance for teachers which has been in line with the Federal Government’s policy.

He said, “During the administration of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai’, teachers on Grade level 1 to 6 received rent allowance of 50 per cent of their basic salaries while those on level 7 to 14 got 60 per cent of their basic salaries. Also, level 15 to 17 were receiving 75 per cent of their basic salaries.

“But when he discovered that the 50 per cent can’t pay rent in FCT, el-Rufai made it 100 per cent. Former Ministers of the FCT who succeeded him, Adamu Aliero and Abdulkahi Moddibo, continued from where el-Rufai stopped.

“But Bala Mohammed came and reverted it to 50 per cent, 60 per cent and 75 per cent whereas rent in FCT has increased tremendously since then. Instead of increasing it, he reduced it.

“We are, therefore, asking for a reversal to the 100 per cent that was started by el-Rufai, even if he can’t increase it. This is our grouse.”

When one of our correspondents visited some schools in the FCT, many parents were seen taking their children home.

In a similar development, workers under the aegis of the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees have threatened a showdown against state governments owing salaries in the country.

This decision was reached at the 19th plenary session of the association held in Akure, on Monday.

Speaking at the meeting, the National President of the association, Solomon Adelegan, said the non-payment of salaries to workers had increased the poverty rate across the country.

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Posted By BOBRICKY On 07:07 Tue, 26 May 2015

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