*We’re not against workers’ demand —Govt
BY TONY EDIKE
ENUGU—WORKERS in Enugu State, yesterday, staged a peaceful protest following the disagreement between organised labour and the state government over the partial implementation of the N18,000 minimum wage.
This came as the state government said it was not at war with the workers over the implementation of the new pay.
The government’s explanation came even as the governorship candidate of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the state, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, expressed support for the workers’ protest.
Also, yesterday, security operatives from the police, army and State Security Service, stormed Adoration Ground of Christ the King Catholic Parish, to arrest the leader of Enugu State Workers’ Forum, Osmond Ugwu, for leading the workers on protest.
Hundreds of workers who converged at the Adoration Ground for prayers after the police had disrupted their procession on Okpara Avenue, however, resisted Ugwu’s arrest but some of them were allegedly rough-handled by the security operatives, who forced their way into Mbaka’s Chapel in search of the labour leader.
Rev. Mbaka who expressed anger over the attitude of the security operatives, confronted them, saying it was wrong for them to storm his residence to disturb the workers who were only seeking divine intervention in their predicaments.
The workers vowed not to return to their offices until the minimum wage was fully implemented by the government, insisting that as public servants they were aware that the government had enough resources to pay the new wage and also take care of other needs of the state.
By 8 a.m, hundreds of workers had converged at Freedom Square, Secretariat Quadrangle, chanting anti-government slogans, singing and dancing as they decried government’s decision to pay less than the approved N18,000 minimum wage.
However, a statement by Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chuks Ugwoke, said the government has complied with the implementation of the payment with effect from this month, adding that Governor Sullivan Chime had approved N18,500 as the minimum wage payable.
He said the government will continue to appeal to the workers to understand and accept the fact that the financial resources at its disposal cannot support the salary chart proposed by labour.