Imo govt, Labour disagree at arbitration panel over salary arrears
IMO workers under various unions may have disagreed with the Imo State government at last Thursday’s mediation/arbitration panel’s sitting to resolve the impasse between the former and the latter over payment of salary arrears spearheaded by the officials of the arbitration panel of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Owerri, according to sources.
The Guardian learnt that while the Labour unions were initially insisting that all workers and retirees be paid all arrears owed by the government, the state government insisted that it can only pay what it has which is not enough to clear the arrears.
The Imo State chapter of various Organised Labour unions, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JPSNC), the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and about four others, dragged the state government to the panel for alleged non-payment of their salary arrears and pensions ranging from two to eight months in the case of civil servants and workers at the state-owned parastatals respectively and civil pensioners and retired primary school teachers ranging from seven to 19 months respectively. Workers had embarked on five-day warning strike from July 27 through July 31.
The Imo State government was represented by the Head of Service, Mr. Calistus Ekenze, while the labour unions were led by Mr. G. C. Agbara of the JPSNC, accompanied by the TUC chairman, Paul Akalazu, the chairman of the Joint Health Sector Unit, Francis I. Ezenwata, his counterpart at the National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners, Dr. Akukwu Darlington, among others.
At the end of the proceedings, Agbara said the Labour leaders insisted that though workers should work according to the rules and regulations of the civil service, the state government must fulfil its obligation by paying workers promptly, adding as the palliative measures, the state government should pay all workers at par till the month of May. He said that the state government expressed the impossibility to pay all workers to that level because of financial difficulties.
The Guardian gathered that there was the likelihood that workers may warm up for another round of strike which may cripple activities in the state as a result of the feuding sides to agree on the payment. Meanwhile, the 27 local council members of staff in the state have continued to reject payment of their May salaries because the state government sent Permanent Secretaries to their secretariats to pay them by cheque, a new phenomenon.
The directive, it was gathered, was given by the governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, because of alleged discovery of fraud of ghost workers in 17 local councils and 40 per cent in the case of pensioners, have not changed as the workers insisted that they be paid cash as in the past.
A statement at the weekend by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Sam Onwuemwodo, said the Forum of Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGs) has urged the workers to accept the payment, commending them for their intervention.