The chairman of the Abia State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Uchenna Obidigwe has said that the organised labour in the state will not compromise on its stand to embark on industrial action at the expiration of the seven-days ultimatum given to the state government to address the issues of unpaid salaries arrears being owed civil servants, unless there is a concrete arrangement.
Speaking in an interview with the NewsCritic online, comrade Obigwe said the Abia NLC will not abandon the cause of the workers, adding that it is not out of place if the governor of the state invites the leadership of NLC to hear them out on their grievance.
Said Obigwe “I made it clear that I visited him on his invitation does not mean there is anything wrong. That people are saying we have chickened out is not correct, we never humiliated anybody neither has the governor humiliated anybody. He is the governor of the state and he has the right to invite me and I have the privilege to answer to his invitation.
He stressed that the seven-days ultimatum given the state government has entered the fourth day and will expire on Wednesday August 21, 2019. Obigwe explained that after the expiration the organised labour will meet to chart the way forward.
On the ongoing controversy over his extension of service, the NLC Chairman explained that “I requested for government to give me my two years of in-service training. It was supposed to be four years the government gave me two years that is what is called extension.
“And on the issue of my asking government to give me two-years further extension, I never made a request, and anybody who is alleging that I made any request for further extension should tender such application to confirm that I did such.
“I am an employee of medical and health workers’ union right now and it is under that strength that I contested for my second tenure. It is not out of place to run for election as a pensioner or a staff of industrial union of which I am now, and the retirement age they implement is 65 years.
“The implication is that I have five more years of service to do my labour work under medical and health workers union. I will serve out my tenure. The bye law or constitution of medical and workers’ union did not ban anyone who retires, it is an affiliate of NLC and they have the rights like other unions to contest for labour position, he submitted.
Obigwe further said that in the event the labour enters into any agreement with the government on the issues of the unpaid salaries arrears, that it would give the government the benefit of doubt to honour the agreement, adding that its primary concern is for workers to be paid and nothing more.
Obigwe said if the government keeps to the agreement with labour everything will be fine.
NewsCritic online reports that the Abia state government has assured that immediate steps would be taken to pay off the arrears of leave allowances, while a Committee made up of Labor and representatives of Government has been empanelled to review outstanding issues affecting workers’ emoluments in the state.
The Committee is made up of representatives of the Nigeria Labor Congress, Trade Union Congress, Nigeria Union of Pensioners and the Chairman of the Joint Council. The Accountant General of the State, the State Head of Service and a former State Chairman of the NLC, Dr ACB Agbazuere will represent government in the Committee.
This Committee was inaugurated on Thursday, August 15.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu promised to always engage the leadership of labour in the state in meaningful dialogue in order to improve the welfare of workers.