By Abubakar LAWAL, Lafia
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC in Nasarawa State and the Nasarawa State Government have continued to trade words over the strike embarked upon by the organised labour, which enters its second week, giving indications that the strike may linger beyond expectations that it will be called off this week, when an agreement might have been reached.
Our correspondent reports that, Government activities in the state remains at virtual standstill, as the strike bites harder, with labour remaining adamant about their twenty one point demand, even as the State Government said that the organized labour has refused to shift grounds in the face of far reaching concessions to the demands made by the NLC from the Government.
The Head of Civil Service in the State, Isah Ancho, who also doubles as the head of the joint negotiating team on Saturday told a pree conference that the Government has been pleading with the workers to resume work whilke negotiations continue, explaining that already some of the demands have been conceded to, and the workers have no justification to continue being away from work.
He said, “Government is concerned by the adverse effects the strike action would have on citizens of Nasarawa State in general and civil servants and their families in particular, Government took proactive measures by inviting and holding series of meetings with the leadership of Organised Labour aimed at resolving the issues at stake. To this effect, Government held five (5) extensive meetings with representatives of Organised Labour between Monday, 25th January and Saturday, 6th February, 2016.”
“ In the course of negotiation with Labour”, he added, “, Government made far-reaching concessions on the 21-point demands made by Labour. Unfortunately, however, the Labour side was adamant in their refusal to reciprocate concessions made by Government in the spirit of collective bargaining. For the avoidance of doubt, this Administration has been faithfully paying workers’ salaries in full since assumption of office in May, 2011. In fact, contrary to speculations that only a percentage of January, 2016 salary was to be paid, Government was ready to pay January, 2016 salary before Organised Labour embarked on the current strike action”.
Ancho noted that, “ In the same vein, Government has agreed to grant promotions to all deserving civil servants to date. However, there will be no financial benefits for the promotions until the economic situation improves. This position is informed by the prevailing global economic challenges which have impacted negatively on revenue accruals to all tiers of Government”.
In the face of these entreaties, the Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Nasarawa State Chapter, Comrade Abdullahi Adeka said workers were not satisfied because Government has not showed enough commitment to warrant calling off the strike. He refuted claims, earlier leveled against workers by some top Government officials that the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by workers in the State was being instigated by politicians, even as he lambasted the State government for being insensitive to the demands of the workers who have stayed away from work for the past two weeks.
Speaking to our correspondent in Lafia the state capital, Comrade Adeka, said the organized labour is not being remote control by politicians under whatever guise, as according to him they are only fighting for their constitutional rights not privileges, and government should stop playing to the gallery with the issue.
“ I have never seen Mr Labaran Maku with my two naked eyes, and I cannot be influenced by somebody I have never seen. They are only looking for a scapegoat, but we must put record straight. I am not Eggon by tribe I am an Alago so for anyone to make this costly allegation I leave him to his conscience and his faith”.
“It is an insult that somebody can look at workers in Nasarawa state and without shame say that we are being remote controlled by certain politicians based on tribal considerations, Nasarawa workers don’t know tribe or religion, all we know is our right and we will continue to fight for it”, the labour leader stated.
He continued that he is protecting the interest of his members who gave him the mandate to lead them, and it is not in the place for any political party nor politician to play around with NLC to achieve he/she political ambition by instigating the union against Government.
While accusing Governor, Umar Al-Makura of sidetracking civil service procedures in employment of more than 40 people without adhering to civil service rules, the union called for the immediate sack of all those employed for political reasons in the civil service so that those who comply with requisite procedures can have their legitimate rights given to them.
“We call for the immediate sack of gost workers employed through dubious ways by the state government with immediate effect since their purse is empty to pay legitimate workers who passed all the routes of civil service law”.
Comrade Abdullahi Adeka said that, by the rules of engagement members that constitute civil service commission must be in place before anybody is employed, but the reverse is the case where people are being offered appointments while members of the commission were not on ground.
He accused the Antony General of the state as being the brain behind the allegations that, the ongoing workers strike is an Eggon agenda masterminded by former minister of information and APGA gubernatorial candidate in 2015 election ,Mr Labaran Maku, just to distract the government of Al-Makura from continuing with negotiations with labour and delay developmental projects for the people of the state.
Meanwhile, tertiary institutions in the state have joined the industrial action, now in its second week, which has crippled Government and commercial activities especially Lafia the capital city of Nasarawa state, even as stakeholders have been making frantic efforts to resolve the issues.
The genesis of the strike stems from a 21-point demand on Government by the Labour Unions to amongst other things, immediate release of salary vouchers for the month of January, 2016 and payment of the salary to workers.
Implementation of all promotions from 2011 to date; Immediate payment of four (4) months arrears on the implementation of the N18,900.00 National minimum wage; Full implementation of annual increments from 2011 to date, and Payment of pension and gratuities and all other issues related to payment of pension.
Also to Implement all professional allowances and the accrued arrears to all deserving workers, payment of in-service allowances, release of claims of beneficiaries of the 500-unit housing estate, along Doma Road, Lafia;, payment of leave/transport grant; Implementation of corrected CONMESS for doctors, and the release of report of the Bio-metric/data capture in both State and Local Government;
They were also demanding the implementation of 65 years as retirement age for non-teaching staff of tertiary institutions in the State, autonomy to the 3 state tertiary institutions, accreditation of all programmes in tertiary institutions in the state, as well as implementation of minimum wage in tertiary institutions.
The NLC was demanding for subvention to all tertiary institutions in the state, review of high tax deduction in health sectors and tertiary institutions in the state, full Judicial Autonomy; Stoppage of screening exercise in the Local Governments; as well as stoppage of percentage payment in the Local Government, and centralization of all union dues deduction in the Local Government Councils.