Aggrieved by the non-payment of their three months salaries, hundreds of local government workers in the eighteen local government areas of Cross River State yesterday registered their anger by taking a protest to the doorstep of the governor, Professor Ben Ayade. Painful to them was the bitter realization that their counterparts in the state civil service have been paid up to June.
Angered by this realization, the aggrieved workers massed at the entrance to the secretariat of their respective councils as part of the work to rule protests.
In a swift reaction, Governor Ayade expressed shock that LG workers in the state were yet to be paid their wages for three months. During an interactive session with the Journalists, Ayade expressed shock that the workers of local government areas were not paid along side their counterparts in state civil service and ordered the salaries to be paid with immediately effect. He however disclosed that thousands of ghost workers were in the system.
The governor therefore ordered immediate and thorough investigation into the roll call of workers in the state with a view to ascertaining the number of workers in the employ of local government areas in the state as well as the wage bills. The April salaries was paid last week and yesterday was scheduled for head count and table payment for May salaries but the four unions in the local government areas, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Medical and Health Workers Union, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwife (NANNM) and National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) blocked all the local government gates stopping workers from participating in the head counts and collecting salaries by hand (Table payment) When our correspondent visited some local government areas closed to the state capital, namely Calabar South, Akpabuyo, Bakassi, Akamkpa, Odukpani, Biase, Yakurr and Calabar Municipal, he found the various unions who stopped workers and those who are yet to collect their May salaries from doing so locked up all the offices. Government officials were also barred from conducting head counts in the respective the offices.
Speaking with our correspondent the Vice- Chairman of NULGE, Calabar Municipal Council, Comrade Offiong, said “we gathered here base on government directives that all local government council workers should gather here for table payment, we said table payment is not acceptable because when the governor ordered that salaries to be paid to state government workers, he did not ordered for the verification and head count or table payment but coming to local government workers, he ordered for head count and verification as well as table payment, it not acceptable” “In as much as we are not fighting the government, we want to partner with government, let the government pay all our arrears of salaries then table payment can commence in July as it is done with state government workers before they can begin to ascertain the number of workers and wage bill.
We are not against it, we are considering the security of our members when this salaries are paid by hand, more so our members have not been paid for three months now and we want the arrears to be cleared, our people are suffering, some of them bad health problems, their children have been driven away from schools, some cannot feed themselves” He further said “What we are saying is that, they should credit our members account in various banks up to June and by July, they come for head counts and verifications with a view to ascertaining the wage bills. For now we are against table payment, that is our position and we stand by it. We are to enforce the directive of no any verification or the directive to collect one-month salary by hand.
We have issued bulleting on that and we believe that government may have seen it” “We, as Joint Action Committee of the union has released bulletin 3 to say no to table payment because when government took a decision to clear some workers in the state, there was nothing like table payment” He insisted that for the workers would not return to work until the government pay their May and June salaries, which he said, was their right. He said: “We were paid half salary in February and they wanted to pay us another half salary in April, we rejected it. So, what they did is to complete our salary for April but they still owe us May and June.
We are already on strike and we will continue to be on strike until government sees the need to pay us our arrears,” he said. He continued; “So, we are saying that our salaries are already due in arrears and that government should clear us. When they clear us, since we are not fighting with government, we will partner with them when they clear us and that means, they should pay all our arrears so that if they want to make any table payment, it should be from July 2015 and not the accumulated arrears.”
Offiong reiterated the resolve of the unions not to return to work until the state government pays them, explaining that the union leaders will monitor the situation and restrain any worker who may be intimidated by government. “Until government pays us, we will not return to work and we are telling the government not to intimidate any worker because we will continue to monitor the situation until the issues are settled,” he said.