Lagos civil servants engage Fashola over work benefits
THERE may be no end in sight yet over agitations for work benefits in the Lagos civil service. Of particular concern for the workers in the last three years, is the contentious issue of leave allowance that was allegedly scrapped with the introduction of Consolidated Salary Scale in 2011.
The workers’ years of grumbling was loudest last week at a town hall meeting with governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN). One of them, Jokogboola, held the microphone to reopen the leave allowance issue. According to Jokogboola, “I want to talk about our leave bonus sir.” The attendant cheer from her colleagues reverberated across the whole of Alausa on the afternoon.
“What are you going to do for us before you leave office and also the increment in our salary?” Outside of Adeyemi Bero Auditorium where majority were seated, the low buzz of excited conversation tells that Jokogboola had asked the all-important question. Indeed, it was the question that changed entire complexion of “the family meeting” — from political monologue to industrial dialogue. Prior to the questions and answer session, Fashola had commended the civil servants for the successes his government achieved in the last eight years.
He said their commitment was the game-changer in the affairs of civil service in the country. Fashola said: “The reward for good work is more work. You will get more work because you have been reliable. You have been reliable and the people of the state know that. What really can I say than to say thank you. We have depended on other nations to do almost everything for us as if there are no other people here. But we have shown that there is nothing wrong with the black people; we have show that we can run a first-class public service and that we can make things work. We have shown that with the right attitude, things can work.” Continuing, he said: “It is quite easy to forget.
What was the perception of the civil service then (1999), compared to now? That is what you have built; don’t lose it. The job is not finished, but think more of what it will look like if we were to start all over again.” Fashola noted that he had promised that there would be no retrenchment in Lagos, and he had kept it till date. “It has come at a cost but I did not go back on my words.
That is job-security for you here. Just look at the situation with other workers outside. Over 2000 bank workers have lose their jobs this month alone. No one lost his job here in Lagos, an APC state. “It may look little, but the odds are difficult. Some people are owed three to four months salary (in other states), some are even begging for salary cut just to have something on time.
It will not happen here. It is not by prayer. But we have to work at it.” In as much as the audience appreciated the commendation and effort to keep everyone engaged, benefit issues were more pressing on their minds. The governor admitted that it was quite a thorny issue he had tried not to discuss publicly. Now that the workers want it in the public, he would oblige them.
Fashola recalled that leave allowances used to be paid once in a year, under the harmonized salary system then. “In 2010, we received a request that this public service wanted the Consolidated Salary structure of the Federal Government. You brought it to me,” the workers replied with murmur of disagreement. Notwithstanding the murmur, Fashola continued: “What will the head of government gain by taking your leave bonus? Your leadership said you were going on strike and we had to do what the Federal Government is doing to avert the strike. Then, we approved it.
Once you moved from harmonized to consolidated, all your bonuses are lumped up into your pay.” Lai-lai (no!), the audience roared in reply. According to the workers, the union leaders that had negotiated with the government (changing from Harmonised to Consolidated Salary Structure) had done so without full consideration of the implications. The frustration could be heard in governor’s voice, though he kept his persuasive skills. “I want you to listen. We approved it based on what you want. Those were circumstances in which we acted.
In consolidating your salary, we have not taken out your leave bonus. If we do, you salary would have reduced. It did not; it even increased your salary to 25 per cent then. “They (union leaders) have come back to me now that they want to return back to the old system and I told them that every choice has consequences. It is like going from married man back to bachelorhood.
I have tried not to discuss this issue in public, because it pains me to be accused of something I didn’t do. But that is my cross to bear. “My advice to you is that you should all go back to debate this and examine the policies that Federal Government is bringing, understand it very well and decide by vote. We are ready to adjust to what you want but you have to understand the consequences.
Consolidated will not bring more payment for you. “We are all human and I want more money too, but cannot get it. Let’s look at what is happening in the country. There is reduction in federal allocation from N11b monthly to N7b now.
By the time we pay salaries, we are already under the negative. Yet, we have to keep hospitals and schools among others running. Don’t forget, we are just one per cent of the population.
So, all the money that comes to the state every month are not for us alone but for the whole state. Let us understand that. “And when a government start to pay only salaries, that government will soon collapse. In eight years, you have received 40 per cent wage increase; the 15 per cent Asiwaju promised, I implemented it during my tenure and the 25 per cent that we gave in 2010. Has our income increased by 40 per cent?”
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