The Bayelsa State chapters of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and Medical and Health Workers' Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) and have concluded plans to commence an indefinite strike starting Monday, July 24 over the non-payment of their salaries.
The unions have directed all Bayelsa State local government and health workers to close the secretariats of the local government councils and health facilities across the state on Monday, urging them to comply with the directive indefinitely until they are paid their salaries.
The unions stated that some local government area workers in the state were owed eight and a half months’ worth of salaries while others were owed up to 15 months, a situation they said was no longer tolerable.
The workers' unions also faulted the state government for shifting the payment of primary school teachers' salaries to the LGAs, saying the development was seriously depleting the resources of the councils, hence their inability to pay salaries.
They called on the state government to assume the responsibility of paying primary school staff salaries and hand over infrastructural projects to the councils, with all counterpart funds coming from the federal government and donor agencies.
In a six-point communiqué issued after their joint state executive council meeting in Yenagoa on Thursday, the state chairman of MHWUN, James Adama, on behalf of other unions, condemned the imposition of 100 percent salary obligations of primary school teachers’ salaries on the local government councils.
The unions said the government's stance was contrary to the long-standing policy of successive administrations in the state and the fourth schedule of the reviewed 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
The workers' unions noted that previous administrations in the state took about 80 percent of primary schools wage bills to reduce the burden of the LGAs in order to meet salary obligations.
They regretted that the current administration of Governor Seriake Dickson, without consulting widely, shifted the entire 100 percent salary obligation to the local government councils, which have been finding it difficult to pay workers' salaries.
“The joint councils in session re-echoed the appeals by the Nigeria Union of Teachers, the Nigeria Labour Congress and other critical stakeholders that the state government should take the lion's share of the payment of primary school staff,” the unions said in the communiqé.
“We hereby call on Governor Seriake Dickson to graciously take over 100 percent payment of primary school teachers in order to allow the councils to survive and pay salaries of their staff regularly.
“We further wish to remind Governor Dickson of the 1999 Constitution as amended (2011) 4th schedule, Section 7 (2) functions of a LGAs which is participatory in the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education.
“That the alternate salary payment between staff of the councils and staff of primary schools, a month after another, is still half salary in disguise.
"We roundly condemn this trend, because not only are council workers true citizens of this state, but also the Governor has since made a pronouncement to prohibit half-salary payment in the state.”
The workers' bodies further urged the government to release, without delay, the balance of the first tranche of the Paris/ London club refund totaling N600m owed to the LGAs from the additional amount received by the state in March as declared by the state government.
They said that the reportedly released second tranche of the long-awaited refund upon receipt by the state government should timely, transparently and judiciously be released to the councils in order to settle the arrears of salaries owed to workers.
“The joint councils in session resolved further to appeal to the government not to forcefully and unlawfully reduce the local government workforce under any guise to sustainably accommodate primary school teachers’ wage bills as such may be visited with mass protest of the over 14,000 council workers on the streets of Yenagoa.
“Consequently, in view of the hopelessness, despondency and sustained sufferings of workers in the councils, the joint council hereby unanimously resolves to resume the suspended indefinite strike with effect from Monday, July 24, 2017.
“Accordingly, all LGA workers are directed to close all the secretariats of the councils and health facilities across the LGAs and comply with this directive indefinitely until the regular payment of salaries and the settlement of arrears are resolved.
“The council workers in Bayelsa since 2015 to date have suffered untold economic and social hardships due to irregular payment of their salaries ranging from eight and a half months to 15 months as of June 2017,” the workers said.