…as Govt. pledges to pay
Workers of the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Aba, have threatened to embark on strike if the state government failed to pay their eight months’ salary arrears on or before Friday.
Chief Emea Ukariwe, the Chairman, ABSUTH Joint Workers Union, disclosed this at the end of a meeting with union leaders in Aba on Thursday.
Ukariwe said that the call became necessary following the failure of the government to pay their eight months’ salary arrears with the Paris Club refund.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Abia state Ministry of Health, Mr Nkwachukwu Agomoh has urged staff of ABSUTH not to go on strike but to expect their salaries on or before Monday.
Agomoh stated, in his office in Umuahia, that he had the assurance of the State’s Commissioner for Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku that the staff of ABSUTH would be paid part of their 8 months outstanding salaries on or Monday.
He said that the ministry was not happy that the hospital workers were being owed; adding that he had spoken with the Medical Director Prof. Chucks Kamalu to ensure the situation was checked and to plead with workers.
According to Ukariwe, my members are not happy, but I have been pacifying them hoping that the government will keep its promises but up till now, it has not complied nor fulfilled its promises to us.
“Based on the salary arrears government owed, we gave seven days ultimatum last year and within that time, it hurriedly paid the remaining salaries of 2016 it had already scheduled to pay but later withdrew.
“And after, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr Nkwachukwu Agomoh, called us for a meeting this year and pleaded with us not go on strike, that with the Paris Club Fund, ABSUTH would be taken care of and we agreed.
‘‘Then the Commissioner for Finance, Mr Obinna Oriaku called us for a meeting and promised that ABSUTH staff would be given priority when the second tranche of the Paris Club refund is paid.
“But now we have heard that they have started paying other organisations and still not a dime has dropped into ABSUTH’s salary account.
“So we have no other option according to Labour Law, than to give the government seven days ultimatum, which had lapsed and government had failed to act.
“We have now given the final three days of grace starting from Wednesday after which the workers will act accordingly,” Ukariwe said.
Dr Azuma Emmanuel, Secretary, Association of Resident Doctors, ABSUTH, said that workers of the institution have not been paid any salary this year which had caused them untold hardships.
“We are calling on the state government to do everything humanly possible to ensure that our salaries are paid promptly to alleviate the sufferings of our members,” he said.
Mr Princewill Okorie, Secretary, Medical and Health Workers Union, ABSUTH Branch, regretted that the state government was not appreciating the sacrifice of the staff.
Mr Samuel Kalu, Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Universities Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), condemned the non-payment of workers’ salaries.
He said that workers of the Teaching hospital returned from their January strike hoping to be treated better, but the government kept failing them.
Kalu said that since the government of Abia has vowed not to keep its promises, the institution would no longer take them seriously, hence the resolve to shut the hospital if government failed to pay by Friday.