Delta Workers' Strike Action Suspended for 2 weeks

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The Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) of Delta State Public Service has suspended its strike action, one day into the indefinite strike called over some issues with the State Government. Government's official activity in the Delta state public service had been paralyzed as workers in the state embarks on an indefinite strike action as schools, public offices, including ministries and parastatals were shut.  

  The chairman of the Council (union side) Comrade Tony Toki, who announced the suspension of the strike, yesterday (Sat. 5th March 2011) shortly after a meeting with the State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, directed workers to resume work on Monday.    

  Comrade Toki who explained that the strike was suspended for only two weeks to enable Government and labour negotiating team reach an agreement on all the issues at stake said the strike was suspended because of the fruitful deliberations with the State Governor.  

  He disclosed that a committee has been set up to work out the details of the agreement, but warned that the strike will resume if government and the negotiating team failed to reach an agreement.  

  While commending the workforce for demonstrating solidarity, maturity and peaceful disposition towards the strike, he said, 'We have suspended the strike and workers in the state should resume work on Monday'.  

  Workers' resolve to down tools is to drive home their demand for payment of the new harmonised and consolidated public service salary structure (relativity salary), contributory pension scheme, absorption of casual workers, amendment of laws of the state Board of Internal Revenue and to stop deductions made to the National Housing Trust Fund.  

  This is just as Delta state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan poised to settle such issues that could bump his gubernatorial ambition has revealed that the proposed N50 billion bond, being sought by the state from the capital market, was also designed to meet the new salary structure for workers in the state.  

  'I don't know what to do. The funds coming to the state are not enough. It is even worse now that salaries are being increased at will. When I became governor in 2007, the wage bill was not up to N3 billion but now, for the state and its 25 LGAs to function, there must be a review of the formula, so that we can pay the new salary.'  

  He said that the wage bill is severely weighing down the state and affecting allocations to other sectors, including the councils. He added that in the interim, the state had sought an alternative avenue in the capital market to meet the challenges, 'hence, we are in the bond market'.  

  He said the state failed to meet its contractual obligations, for which his administration is being tagged 'tight-fisted', because the contractual agreement papers and the process of payment were not properly filed, although he swore not to violate the law on due process, even as he urged the contractors to 'tidy up their papers', if they want their money to be paid.  

  State Organising Secretary of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Mr Uche Monyei and 12 others, in a statement, after its meeting in Asaba said "this is to inform all workers in the public service of Delta State, that following the inability of the Delta State government to fulfil the demands contained in the letter No. PSJNC/DTC/18 dated February 18, 2011 which was addressed to the Governor by the Public Service Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the trade unions in the public service of Delta State said, "we wish to direct all workers to proceed on an indefinite strike action with effect from Friday March 4, 2011.  

  "The demand of workers is well articulated in the aforementioned letter. The strike action is therefore to be sustained until all of them (demands) are met. "While the strike is in progress, JAC/JNC will remain open to dialogue on the workers' demands and the way forward," the statement added.  

  The workers' strike action, which is said to be indefinite, commenced on Friday 4th March 2011, following failure of the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan or his agents to meet with labour unions to address the lingering and unresolved issues of workers' welfare in the state.  

  'We wish to refer to the various fruitless efforts made by the Delta State Public Service Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) to meet with His Excellency the Governor with a view to resolving the grievances of workers which border on a number of welfare issues and to inform His Excellency the Governor that JNC has met and finally resolved that the Delta State Government should meet the demands of the workers of the Delta State public service.'  

  In a swift reaction, the Head of the Civil Service of Delta state, Sir Okey Ofili, in a statement issued on behalf of the state government enjoined workers in the state to disregard the call for an indefinite strike and urging them to go back to their various offices but the monitoring task force set up by the JNC has warned all public servants in the state to steer clear of ministries, parastatals, academic and health institutions and other government agencies while the strike lasts.  

  Ofili has claimed that the state government is already negotiating with labour on the matter even as members of the labour unions say that government is yet to meet with them.  

  It is however alleged that the state government has deliberately refused to meet with the JNC and has reneged in its responsibility to the workforce by using the state chapter chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Mike Okeme and the Head of the Civil Service of Delta state, Sir Okey Ofili to frustrate workers' demands.  

  A member of the JNC, who pleaded anonymity, revealed that 'Uduaghan has been using delayed tactics to avoid meeting with the JNC members and yet he is always with Okeme and Ofili who feed him with lies. The governor has no option other than to meet with our demands. Workers in the state are tired of empty promises from the governor and his cohorts.  

  The Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) had earlier issued an ultimatum to the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to hasten the processes of ensuring that the demands of every worker in the state public service are met within 14 days from Friday 18th February 2011.    

  The ultimatum issued by nine affiliate unions warned that 'in the event of the state Government's inability to meet the demands, JNC will not be able to restrain the restive workers from proceeding on an indefinite strike action with effect from Friday 4th March 2011'.  

  On the new harmonised consolidated public service salary structure (relativity salary), JNC called on the Delta State Government to adopt and implement the circular letter issued by the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) on the New Harmonised Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure with effect from 1st July 2010.  

  Following allegations that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan may have borrowed huge sum of money from the Contributory Pension Scheme Escrow Account to process his re-run election, the JNC has directed that the Escrow Account presently being operated by the Office of the Accountant-General of the State should be closed, while the State Pension Bureau should be allowed to operate the entire pension scheme  

  While demanding that the Transitional Contribution Funds paid by workers should be released to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) to enable them open Retirement Savings Accounts (RSA) for contributors, the JNC had also challenged the Delta State Government to show evidence of the release of its contribution of Legacy Funds to the Contributory Pension Scheme.  

  The JNC further queried why employees of Delta state government who retired from March 2010 till date are yet to be paid their pension benefits, urging that funds accruing to the State Pensions Bureau for payment of pension benefits be released immediately.  

  The JNC also frowned at the inability of the State Government to absorb all casual workers in the state public service into permanent employment even after Governor Uduaghan made an open declaration in May 2009 to absorb them.  

  It urged the State Government to take steps towards amending the Delta State Internal Revenue Consolidation Law 2009 with a view to separating the office of the Chairman of the Board from that of the Administrator of Internal Revenue, saying that the office of the Chairman may be held by a political appointee while that of the Administrator should be held by the most senior career civil servant of the Board.  

  It further added that the 5 percent cost of collection allowance provided for   in the Delta State Internal Revenue Consolidation Law 2009 should be distributed among all revenue generating Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA's) in proportion to the amount of revenue generated by them instead of paying the entire mount to the Board of Internal Revenue alone.  

  On the issue of the National Housing Trust Fund, the Delta State Government was directed to stop the deduction of the National Housing Trust Fund contribution (NHTF) from the salaries of workers and to refund all such past deductions.  

  Meanwhile, the state government has insisting that the workers did not exhaust the option of negotiation before embarking on the said strike action.  

  The strike action was called at the instance of the Joint Action Congress (JAC) and the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) of labour unions in the state, which include the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Employees (AUPCCTRE), Agricultural and Allied Employees Union (AAEU), Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Union of Printing Publishing and Paper Products Workers (NUPPPPROW), National Union of Civil Service Secretarial and Allied Workers (NUCSSAW), Radio Television Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU) as well as the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).