By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Few days ago, Acting President of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Dr Tommy Okon, held an interactive session with journalists at the association’s national secretariat in Lagos.
Among others, he informed that as part of the drive for welfare and interest of members, ASSCN has tabled before the Federal Government some demands including “need for general salary review of the Civil Service; need to compute annual leave of public servants in working days rather than calendar days; need for upward review of retirement age in the entire public service to 65 years or 40 years of service whichever comes first and restoration of tenure policy for directors and permanent secretaries.
Others are incidences of stagnation as a result of lack of vacancies and need to create vacancies by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs; appointment of non-career persons into the civil service, payment of gratuity to civil servants, salary harmonisation in the public service and abolition of the dichotomy between HND and BSc holders.”
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Explaining reasons behind these demands, the Acting President told Vanguard that demand for a general salary review in the civil service in the midst of non-implementation of the new minimum wage by some state governments, Dr Okon, said it was the practice and agreement with government for periodical review of salary of civil servants and that government must honour its obligations and agreements, noting that “for every five years, there is the need for salary review but government is not being truthful about it.
Labour issues are under exclusive legislation. Any attempt to take it out means the worker is declared persona non grata in the workplace. It is an aberration for any government to reduce salaries after a new minimum wage was passed into law. Labour leaders have exhausted avenues of industrial relations and collective bargaining and, therefore, we would not hesitate to fight recalcitrant states.
“Our wage is our right. We are not begging. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the national minimum wage into law and it should not be negotiated. Some state governments are saying they cannot pay and they have refused to tell us how they spend security votes with the level of insecurity in the country. They refused to tell us how many personal assistants they have, they refused to tell us how much they are using to feed their dogs weekly.
The problem of industrial relations is not caused by workers but government. This is man’s inhumanity to man. Why do states renege on agreement when they know that it is a potential time bomb? When we enter into agreement, it is a simple rule of collective bargaining. We have reached an agreement and they are reneging without informing the parties involved and see how we can discuss from time to time. If any governor claims he cannot pay the N30,000 minimum wage, he should go back and think how he came into power.
Stagnation, extension of retirement age of civil savants
“On the issue of extension of retirement age from 45 to 65 years, if you go to the judiciary, they are already there. Stagnation does not have issue with that. You get to the academics, they have extended. If you say you are extending the retirement age of workers in the educational sector, are you now saying workers in other sectors are not as important as education officers? These are issues government should consider in order not to kill the morale of workers.
Some people now say that they want to convert to education workers simply because of that window that government has opened. But if government is able to bridge this gap by allowing other sectors to also benefit from what other officers are benefiting from, we won’t experience such. We have to address it on time. For the age disparity and for those working in bigger agencies and earning bigger salaries, government must look at that. Everybody wants to go to such agencies where there are juicy opportunities. These are fundamental challenges, which we are looking at to see how we can bridge the gap.”
Appointment of non-career civil servants
“We have written a memo and the Head of Service, HoS of the Federation, has assured us that a committee would be set up to look at that and once the committee is set up, we will make our position known. We are sure that government will take it up from there.
Most times, things are done without the knowledge of those at the top. Some of the non-career persons are being smuggled into the civil service. While making our position known, we will also have the privilege of educating them if they claim they don’t know.
On merging of MDAs, he said “merging of agencies will not lead to job loss. When you look at the issues of downsizing and rightsizing, the exercise will still go on without leading to job loss. There are certain things labour does not quarrel about when it comes to issues such as this.”