Medical research institute explains inability to meet striking workers’ demands
The Director General of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, Prof. Innocent Ujah, has given reasons the agency has not been able to meet the demands of the striking workers, just as he described the industrial action as ill-motivated and unwarranted.
Ujah, in response to the three-day warning strike embarked upon by the Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), NIMR branch from August 17 to 19, 2015, alleged that the action, which he considers as ill-advised, is an attempt by NASU to disrupt the peace and tranquility that has been reigning since his assumption of office as the director-general in 2010.
On the demand of the workers over unpaid arrears of 2012 and 2013 promotions, the DG explained: “The institute, like all the other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), submitted its request for payment of the arrears for the promotion exercises conducted in 2012 and 2013 to the Budget Office, Abuja.
Up till this moment, we have not received any financial allocation to that effect, despite our repeated visits to the Budget Office. We made it known to the union that as soon as the Federal Government releases the fund, we shall pay the affected staff.
The fact that no fund has been received to pay these arrears can be verified from the Budget Office.” On the alleged delay in the conduct of 2015 promotion, Ujah said: “NIMR has presented and defended its Manpower Budget for 2015, but up till this moment, the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation has not released letter of approval.
It must be stated that without the approval, the Budget Office will not appropriate funds for implementation of promotion for the institute; moreover, it will be an act of lawlessness to conduct promotion exercise without approval from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation. “As soon as approval is received from the Office of Head of Service, the 2015 promotion exercise will be conducted and deserving staff will be duly promoted.”
Reacting to the demand by NASU on unpaid balance of 2013 salary shortfall, Ujah explained that the “Management has informed the executive council of the union that this matter had been discussed and trashed out with the past exco.
To put the record straight, prior to 2013, the institute was operating on Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) but in 2013, the National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission directed that NIMR should be placed on Consolidated Research and Allied Institutions Salary Structure (CONRAISS).
Consequently, the salaries and allowances for 2013 were based on CONRAISS which were far less than what was prepared for CONHESS that the Budget Office approved for 2013.
Based on the fact that we operated the CONRAISS in 2013, the balance of allowances that was released to the institute could not pay the allowances based on CONHESS.
The amount of money released and received could pay for three months and seven days, and this was duly paid to all the staff of the Institute.
The Budget Office of the Federal Ministry of Finance has categorically stated that the Federal Government did not owe NIMR any shortfall on salaries in 2013 and therefore, no other fund was received by the institute to this effect. “However, if NASU thinks otherwise, I challenge it to show evidence, since all allegations must be verified.
What I have stated can be verified from the Budget Office and the Accountant General of the Federation’s Office, Abuja (Annexure I). However, following my successful defence that NIMR should be on CONHESS, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission reverted NIMR to CONHESS in 2014.
I thought, I should be commended for this achievement by all staff of the institute and to be fair to NASU, I received commendation by this very NASU under the past executive in 2014 at my fourth anniversary celebration for my positive welfare disposition to staff.”
The allegation of non-payment of staff accident insurance premium also elicited response from Ujah who explained that “the NIMR, before the introduction of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), on its own initiative put in place a Group Personal Accident Insurance Policy as part of its welfare package, subject to availability of funds.
The policy covered the staff for injury following an accident while at work and it was meant to compensate for the medical bills arising from partial disability and to cover for such unforeseen liability that may occur while on duty “However, with the introduction of NHIS and paucity of funds in the institute, we are unable to fund the scheme, especially now that the Federal Government has introduced NHIS policy, under which the institute religiously pays its counterpart for staff.
Once the Federal Government makes such fund available, we shall implement the Scheme. This was clearly presented to NASU Officials.”
Ujah said prior to this ill-motivated three-day warning strike, the management, after receiving a letter from NASU branch of the institute, had series of meetings with the executive to discuss the issues raised.