Bayelsa Council Workers Suspend Three Months Strike

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Osa Okhomina,Yenagoa

Local Government and Health workers in Bayelsa State Thirsday suspended a three-month strike they embarked upon to protest non-payment of their salaries by their various council authorities.

A meeting of the Joint State Executive Council (JSEC) consisting of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the Medical and Health Workers’ Union (MHWUN) unanimously agreed in Yenagoa to call off the strike.

The unions in a communique signed after their meeting by NULGE’s state President and Secretary, Mr. Akpos Ekiegha and Mr. Peace Chukwu, directed all the workers to resume work on October 16.

The unions in the document, which was also signed by state Chairman and Secretary, MHWUN, Mr. James Adama and Letam Nwibani, called on the government to work out modalities to gradually settle the salary arrears of workers ranging from seven to 15 months.

They said the decision to resume work was taken after reviewing the efforts of the state Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd) and the Commissioner for Local Government Administration, Mrs. Agatha Goma, in facilitating regular payment of salaries and some of the arrears during the strike.

The unions called on the Local Government Service Commission and the Ministry of Local Government Administration to urgently work out ways of funding the Local Government Pension Board ( LGPB) to address pension challenges in the state.

“To achieve this, we candidly advise that a committee of critical stakeholders be urgently inaugurated to properly verify all pensioners.

“As the current retirement exercise is reducing wage bills of the council, it is our expectation that part of the funds realized from the retirement be channeled to the pension board to guarantee regular payment of at least the monthly pension”, they said.

The unions further commended Governor Seriake Dickson for personally intervening to resolve the plight of primary school teachers by approving monthly funding of their salary deficit.

“This will obviously bring about a sigh of relief to the eight councils and ultimately guarantee regular payment of salaries not only for the council staff but also primary school teachers to restore industrial peace”, they said.

On the issues that led to the July 24th strike, they said: “It was precipitated by the crisis of irregular payment of workers’ salaries which led to accumulated arrears. Our decision was also informed by government’s withdrawal from participating in the payment of primary school teachers.

“This development adversely affected the councils in the smooth discharge of their salary obligations to workers. The consequence was the introduction of alternate salary payment between council workers and primary school teachers one month after the other.

“This was in spite of relevant constitutional provisions and precedents set by previous administrations and sustained by the Restoration Government to the extent that government was initially taking 83 per cent and subsequently 60 per cent responsibility of the primary school salary bill up to December, 2015”.