Organized labor union leaders in Ondo State are at loggerheads with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu over his offer of a “fractional payment” meant to offset the outstanding salaries and arrears of civil servants in the state, Sahara Reporters has learnt.
The union leaders, under the aegis of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JNC) of the state, decided to reject the offer after a failed negotiation with the state government over the nonpayment of their outstanding salaries and pension arrears.
The state workers’ demand for the payment of their outstanding salaries came on the heels of the disbursement of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund to the state by the federal government.
Our correspondent reported that the government workers are owed six months’ worth of salaries accrued from August 2016 through January 2017 by ex-governor Olusegun Mimiko.
Governor Akeredolu, who began his term in February 2017, has thus far only offset one month, August.
The governor had on several occasions vowed to make the welfare of the civil servants in the state a top priority of his government while also soliciting for an increase in the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state.
On July 19, 2017, Governor Akeredolu confirmed receiving a total sum of N7,003,648,314 as the state's own share of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund released to all 36 states of the federation.
Mr. Akeredolu, in a statement issued by his head media aide, Segun Ajiboye, said 75 percent of the fund would be devoted for payment of workers’ salaries and pensions while the remaining 25 percent would be used for government exigencies.
He explained further that 32.68 percent of this same refund would be allocated to the local government areas while the state government would receive 67.32 percent as its own share.
SaharaReporters observed that since the disbursement of the Paris Club refund to the states, civil servants have been demanding the quick payment of their outstanding arrears from the money.
But on July 31, 2017, Mr. Akeredolu met with leaders of the organized labor unions in the state and told them that 75 percent of the Paris Club refund, approximately N4.7 billion, could not offset the outstanding salaries of the civil servants.
Sources at that meeting told SaharaReporters that both the labor leaders and the governor reached a deal where 75 percent would be used to offset workers’ salaries up till the grade level that it could accommodate.
“But after that meeting with the governor, the state Head of Service and the Accountant General met again on behalf of the government with the labor leaders and turned down the initial deal with the union and went ahead to propose a percentage [fractional] payment.
“This means that some workers would have to receive half or quarter payment of their outstanding [September] salaries and arrears but the workers have rejected it anyway and will have to state their position on the way forward,” the source said.
Meanwhile, last Thursday the labor unions issued a statement in Akure and vehemently rejected the idea of a "percentage payment" to offset the workers’ outstanding salaries by the Akeredolu-led government.
The statement obtained by SaharaReporters was jointly signed by the trio of Bose Daramola, Chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Sola Ekundayo, Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Adeleye Oluwole, the Chairman of the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) in the state.
The labor leaders all demanded for a full payment of the 2016 workers’ salaries and asked the government to better devise means of paying the outstanding arrears without further delay.
“Organized labor met today, Thursday, the 10th of August, 2017, and resolved as follows:
“That percentage payment or fractional payment in whatever form is unacceptable to Ondo State public servants and pensioners; that government should look inward to augment and pay September 2016 salaries in full to all workers and pensioners in the state.
“While assuring Your Excellency of our support and loyalty at all times, it is our wish that the entire workers of Ondo State will receive their September 2016 salaries and pensions without further delay,” the statement read.
Speaking further, the Chairman of the Joint Public Service Negotiating Council (JNC), Adeleye Sunday Oluwole, said the government should reason enough with the state civil servants who are demanding for the full payment of their outstanding salaries.
Mr. Oluwole, who spoke with a SaharaReporters correspondent in a phone interview, explained that the labor leaders are not fighting the Akeredolu led government but are only protecting the interests of the workers, hence the rejection of the percentage [fractional] payment offer.
“We are not fighting the state government over the outstanding salaries. What we are demanding is that over N400 million will still be needed to pay the outstanding salaries of the workers.
“We said they should help us to add this money from the treasury of the state government to at least offset just one month [September] but they are saying no to this.
“The N4.7 billion from the state could only pay 80 percent of one month’s salaries for workers.”
He added that the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was still new in the state and could not be solely blamed over the woes of the outstanding salaries, but stressed that Governor Akeredolu should put the interest of the workers at heart by holding onto his promises.
SaharaReporters observed that the monthly wage bill of the state is still put at N3.9 billion despite the discovery of some ghost workers in the state football agency in June.