Crisis looms in Bayelsa as government withholds workers salaries

Posted by News Express | 17 April 2018 | 1,484 times

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•Governor Dickson

 

An industrial dispute is imminent following fears of job losses occasioned by downsizing exercise embarked on by the Bayelsa government to trim down its wage bill put at N3.9 billion monthly.

The Bayelsa chapters of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress and affiliated unions have opposed the suspension of 3,403 workers in the ongoing public service reforms.

The Head of Service of Bayelsa, Rev Thomas Zidafomo directed that salaries of 222 staff of Bayelsa owned media houses and 3,181 non-teaching staff in the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) be suspended.

Zidafomo, in a letter dated Apri 6, 2018, directed that the withheld salaries of the affected workers listed as ‘excess workers’ be remitted to the Accountant General of Bayelsa.

The Unions, in a statement signed by John Ndiomu and Tari Dounana, State Chairmen of NLC and TUC, urged the Bayelsa government to reverse its decision to withhold the workers’ salaries.

The labour noted that withholding of staff salaries of workers listed for redeployment was strange, and urged the government to carry out the reforms in compliance with Public Service Rules.

“Labour wishes to draw government’s attention to the ongoing public service reforms, it is proper to note that redeployment of staff is a norm but stoppage of salaries is not in line with civil service rules.

“Labour therefore calls on government to review its directive on the stoppage of salaries as it is against the public service rules and pay the affected staff their salaries to forestall breach of industrial peace.

“We also wish to remind the government of its pledge that the reforms would not lead to job losses and ask that it abides by it,” The joint NLC/TUC statement read in part.

The Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) SUBEB, on Monday, urged the government to reverse its decision which affected over 3181 non-teaching staff within 14 days or face a strike.

The Bayelsa chapter Chairman Geku Ebiwari in a statement issued after an emergency congress of the union noted that the workers were not under any trial to warrant the suspension of their salaries.

Ebiwari said that if the exercise was a redeployment as claimed in the circular, there would be no need to stop workers’ salaries.

However, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Bayelsa Commissioner for Information said that there was no going back in the reforms, adding that the government would pursue it to a logical conclusion

He maintained that the reforms are necessary to “rid the public service of an excess workforce and in the process deliver a leaner, smarter and productive workforce that is better equipped to serve the state.”

Iworiso-Markson, who spoke against the backdrop of concerns by the affected staff and labour leaders, allayed fears that they had been sacked, explaining that the affected workers would be trained and deployed to other areas of need.

According to him, those found unsuitable in the public service will be eased out with financial assistance to start off their businesses.

He further said that Gov Seriake Dickson is scheduled to receive the report of the state Public Service Reforms Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha Jonah (Rtd), on Tuesday.

The submission of the report is preparatory to a meeting between the governor and leaders of the organized labour on Wednesday.

Iworiso-Markson explained that the meeting “will be used to discuss more on the reforms and some of the steps taken by the government as it begins the holistic implementation of the reforms.

A committee set up by Gov Seriake Dickson on staffing and Funding of MDAs had compiled the list of surplus staff which is being released in batches.


Source: News Express

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