By Andy Chukwu
The organised labour in Abia State has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the state government ahead of an imminent strike over the unpaid arrears of workers’ salaries and allowances in the state.
The ultimatum was contained in a statement jointly issued in Umuahia on Friday by the NLC, Joint Negotiating Council and Trade Union Congress.
The group said that the ultimatum was a prelude to an impending strike.
It warned that labour should not be held responsible “for any breach of industrial peace and harmony in the state,” should government fail to address their concerns at the expiration of the ultimatum.
“A labourer deserves his wages,” it stated, adding that the organised labour was not satisfied with the “sectoral pattern of payment of workers’ salaries in the state since the inception of the present administration.”
It also stated that the unwholesome development “has placed an average worker in the state in a beggarly position economically.”
According to a list of the arrears released by the group, primary school teachers were owed three months, while secondary school teachers were last paid in October 2018.
Others include Hospital Management Board (11 months); Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (four months); Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba (13 months) and Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, last paid in April 2018, plus partial payment in May, the same year.
The organised labour said that while the senior staff of the College of Health Science, Aba, were owed nine months, their junior counterparts were owed eight months.
Also, Abia College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu were owed 18 months, Abia State University, Uturu (four months); local government workers last paid in March, plus half salary in October 2018.
The rest were State Education Management Board (SEMB) (eight months); Agricultural Development Programme (14 months), Ministries of Agriculture and Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, one month, respectively.
Labour also said that some agencies of government, including the state Library Board, secondary school teachers, SEMB and Abia Council for Arts and Culture were owed arrears of the N18,000 minimum wage, ranging from 10 to 14 months.
It regretted that while the 2017 leave allowances were partially paid, the 2018 and 2019 allowances had yet to be paid.
It further expressed concern over the government’s failure to pay pensions as and when due, adding that only a few pensioners were paid in November 2017.
It also said that retired civil servants were last paid gratuity in 1999, saying that the development was tantamount to “mercy killing.”
The group further sought explanations on how Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration implemented the third and last tranches of the Paris Club refund to the state.
“We are worried over the non-implementation of this directive for the benefit of the workers in the state,” it said.