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Industrial unrest looms in Ministry of defence, others over N290bn unpaid arrears

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….We can no longer control workers’ restiveness, says Labour

Victor Ahiuma-Young, reporting from Geneva, Switzerland

INDICATIONS have emerged of a looming industrial unrest in the Ministry of Defence, MoD, Education, and others following workers’ restiveness over unpaid salaries, and other benefits including promotion arrears totaling N290billion.

•A cross section of pensioners protesting unpaid benefits . Inset is Ivor Takor of Centre for Pension Right Advocay.

Secretary General of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Mr. Bashir Alade Lawal, told Journalists at the ongoing 106th session of the International Labour Conference, ILC, in Geneva, Switzerland, that Labour leaders could no longer control workers’ restiveness.

He contended that the situation in the ministries especially defence and education was getting out of control and lamented that the N10billion released by the government was grossly inadequate, judging that the total indebtedness was N290billion.

According to him: “If you look at the ‎entire problem you will agree that government is not sincere with workers. This indebtedness is dated back to 2007, and you want to imagine that workers who are working are being promoted as at when due but government is refusing to pay them their promotion arrears. Somebody that has been promoted from level 8 to 9, from 9 to 10, from 10 to 12 and so on, is still earning level 8 salary because the employer, which is the federal government, has refused to do the right thing.

“So, this issue has brought this arrears that runs to N290billion. And the insincerity of the federal government is demonstrated in the first instance, when the federal government gave out the bailout funds to states totaling about N734billion, the federal government took 52.2 percent of the amount as a result of the revenue sharing formula. Then, the states took their shares. The federal government is asking the states to use their share to pay arrears of workers’ salaries. But the federal government took its share and diverted it into other use without using it to pay salaries. That is the height of insincerity. So, now the federal government has accepted that there is a problem. I speak with you , the situation is very tensed, workers are very restive and no labour leader can guarantee that the situation will not go out of hand.

“We are just trying to manage the situation, knowing some of the other challenges facing the country. Now we have come together, including the National Assembly on the issue of this N290billion, the National Assembly has offered a window that we should utilise what is currently in the budget. What is in the budget is N30billion and so the two side would then meet and look at the possibility of packaging a sort of loan or bond to be able to sort this out. So, this N10billion released by the government is just in the interim, to just start doing something. The N30billion in the budget is not what is readily available because of the process involved before it can be accessed.

“However, the agreement we have with the National Assembly and other stakeholders is that as soon as the budget becomes law, the money will be released immediately. So, from the N290billion, you would have sorted out 40billion, remaining N250billion. With the National Assembly, we are hopeful with the kind of interest shown. Because most of the lawmakers saw what happened during May Day in Abuja where they were evacuated into their vehicles during workers’ reaction as a result of frustration. So, let us see the result of all these initiatives and hopefully the way we are looking at it that we will be able to sort it out this year. Anything short of that or should they decide to foot drag on this, I bet you even with the leadership of the union, peace will not guaranteed. ”

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