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IT'S THE SAME WAR DRUMS IN SOUTH WEST

By NBF News
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In Oyo State, the spectre of industrial unrest, which had haunted the new government of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, following its initial refusal to pay the contentious N18,000 minimum wage, was staved off by a last ditch agreement between the government and labour on the eve of a planned strike in the state public service.

The pact saw Ajimobi finally bowing to the wish of the workers to pay the new salary scheme as agreed between the workers and his predecessor, Adebayo Alao-Akala. Both parties, however, agreed that the payment would be a one-off thing, pending when the dwindling finances of the state would improve to sustain the new wage bill.

The immediate past governor, Alao-Akala had on May 13, about two weeks to his exit from the Agodi Government House entered into an accord with the leadership of the organized labour, the state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to implement the new wage with effect from the same month.

This agreement with the former governor, which his predecessor alleged was a landmine, reached in bad faith to frustrate his government, knowing that the size of the state purse was unable to foot it, had become a weapon which the workers insist on implementing. All pleas by the administration to the workers on the inability of the government to honour the agreement fell on deaf ears.

The governor had explained that with the revenue profile of government - a total of N4.196 billion, made of Statutory Allocation from the Federation Account: of N2,445,118,813.0; VAT -N651,407,793.00; and IGR of N1,100,000,000 government would not be able to do any other thing than pay salary. Even at that, he added that government would need additional N200m loan every month to meet the demand.

This was against the present monthly wage bill of N2.9 billion which the past government paid till April, 2011. Besides this, he said Alao-Akala left a debt profile of N4.8billion and sundry financial dealings that the current government would have to shoulder.

Ajimobi further said that the past government dipped its hands into the N3.9 billion realized from the sale of government quarters dedicated towards cushioning pensioners' sufferings in a bid to pay the new wage, while hurriedly spending N3 billion out of this money five days before its exit.

The government, initially offered to pay a wage that would bring the state at par with and which was comparable to other states in the South West region. As a first step, government offered to pay the Ekiti model salaries to its workforce, an amount higher than what is paid in Osun State. This would have increased the salary of workers by between 45 and 100 per cent and thus add another N800m pressure to government's monthly wage bill, that is from N2.9b to N3.7b. But the workers rejected it.

Based on the position of the government, the workers in the state had threatened to declare a strike on Friday, June 10, effective from Monday, June 13. But soft-pedalled after leaders of thought comprising traditional rulers, religious leaders, retired permanent secretaries, Heads of Service and community leaders waded in and brokered a truce.

At a subsequent negotiation that weekend, both parties, with the State Chairman of NLC, Bashir Olanrewaju leading the labour delegation, reached a compromise that the salary already prepared for May, based on the new table be paid, while further payment would resume after the treasury became buoyant.