Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 16 December 2016 | 1,691 times
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abia State chapter is set to do battle with the state government over the disbursement of the N10.6 billion the state is said to have just received from the Federal Government.
While Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is said to have issued a directive to the effect that half of the money be used to pay arrears of salaries of workers with immediate effect, Labour is demanding that the whole fund be channeled to clearing all arrears of salaries and pensions owed workers and retirees.
Besides, the organised Labour in Abia has issued a 14-day ultimatum to the government to clear arrears it was owing all workers and pensioners.
According to the Abia NLC Chairman, Comrade Uchenna Obigwe, with N10.6 billion in the state’s vault, this was the period for the state government to demonstrate to Abia workers that it has a human face.
Baring his mind on the disbursement of the fund, Comrade Obigwe urged Governor Ikpeazu to deploy the fund to clearing all the arrears owed workers and retirees.
“The Government should use this opportunity to show Abia workers who have been patient with it that it has a human face. We are not against projects, we love projects but it is only the living that makes use of the projects.
“We appeal that this money be deployed to clear the arrears being owed workers and pensioners. N10.6 billion can make a lot of difference in Abia economy. If the workers and pensioners are paid and this money circulates, Abia economy will witness a turn around,” Obigwe said.
He maintained that the whole fund be used to tackle workers’ arrears while whatever remains should be deployed to other things, insisting that workers welfare should be accorded priority.
Obigwe also suggested to Governor Ikpeazu to set up a committee comprising representatives of organised labour to discuss the disbursement of the N10.6 billion with a view to utilising it to clear the arrears owed Abia workers and pensioners.
He said that it was only through such means as was the case during the disbursement of the bailout fund that the interest of the workers would be protected.
The NLC Chairman lamented the situation where no person in the state has received his or her gratuity in the last 16 years and equally reminded government that workers in the state have not received their leave allowance and promotion allowance since 2015.
Said Obigwe: “NLC is not happy that Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) is still owed 24 months pension arrears. Gratuity is a mirage in the state. We call on Governor Ikpeazu to do something about it. We appreciate the lean resources he faces but with these funds available he can show that he cares for Abia workers who have been very patient and supporting him,” Obigwe said.
Meanwhile, the leadership of Abia NLC has explained that it issued a 14-day ultimatum to Abia State government with effect from December 13, 2016 to clear arrears owed workers because the living condition of Abia workers and the pensioners was pitiable.
Abia NLC leaders, including Comrade Obigwe, the Chairman of Trade Union Congress, Comrade Chris Okpara, the Chairman of Joint Negotiating Council, Chris Okoro, and the acting state Secretary, Comrade John Onaga, explained that Labour had earlier given the government 21 days ultimatum which has since expired.
They said that at the expiration of the fresh ultimatum, a State Executive Council meeting of the unions would be convened to decide the next line of action.
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