Labor leaders met with the Bayelsa State government to resolve the non-payment of salaries and pensions on Monday.
At a five-hour-long emergency meeting held at the State Government House, labor union leaders led by the Chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), John Odiomu, and the State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Tare Donli, agreed with the State government on the need to commence the gradual payment of salaries owed despite the dwindling resources available to the State.
Mr. Odiomu told journalists after the meeting that although the labor unions would continue engaging the government on the issue of salary payment, he admitted that the State and its workers have a big problem at hand that must be resolved.
Mr. Donli said the issue of unpaid salaries is a storm in the cup of the State and the stakeholders needed to manage it.
Earlier, the State Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah, who presided over the meeting, said that although the meeting was cordial, “it is sad that the State met itself in this situation. Bayelsa State is not known to owe salaries. But with N1.6billion, it is physically not possible to pay.”
Mr. Jonah said the State government team had explained the situation to the labor union leaders and that the labor leaders also suggested to the State government to consider options of bank loans and bonds, “but we told them that the State is not capable. Taking loans is not possible for the State.”
The meeting resolved in the 10-points communiqué read by the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Jonathan Obuebite, who stated, “In spite of the dwindling economy, the State government is working assiduously to pay salaries arising from a very low federal allocation to pay off the backlog of salaries and pensions owed to workers and pensioners in the State.”
He continued, “That labor appreciates the challenges of government in meeting salaries arising from low federal allocations. That the government should improve on its IGR [Internally Generated Revenue] without increasing personal income tax to raise the revenue of the State to meet its financial obligations. That the State government should work with the Local Government Councils to pay all salaries owed without delay, since verification reports by the various LGA committees are being submitted.
“That the State and LGAs immediately convene a JAAC [Joint Account Allocation Committee] meeting for March, 2016 on allocation. That the State government should appeal to financial institutions in the State to relax their loan recovery policy for the period in line with the federal government directive to the CBGN to relax same on State Government and its workers on the bail out. That on payment of salaries, check-off dues are deducted and paid to the various unions as appropriate.”