By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Last year, I wrote a similar treatise on the incessant strike actions by organized labor in Cross River State and more than a year after my perspective on the issue, nothing has changed.
Last week, labor leaders in Cross River State called workers of the state government out on a strike action which is currently on-going based on a few issues which the leadership has said the state government is yet to fulfill in its agreement.
Some of the issues include but are not limited to payment of gratuities to retired civil servants, promotion of some staff in the service and the on going staff verification and audit handled by consultants to the state government.
While one is not oblivious of the fact that a few unresolved issues exist, it is clear that the Cross River State Government under the leadership of Senator Ben Ayade remains the most labor friendly government in Nigeria even as the national leadership of the organized labor has so commended the governor for his prompt payment of workers salaries.
Upon taking over the reins of leadership in the state in 2015, Professor Ben Ayade worked assiduously to clear all outstanding salaries which were being owed by the previous administration and since then, the governor has paid salaries up to date even paying some months in advance of work done.
It is worthy of note that even when the state was still listed among oil producing states, and was getting the highest amount of federal allocation under former governor Donald Duke, state government workers were still owed salaries and those that got theirs were always coming to queue and sometimes even faint, at the defunct Standard Trust Bank in Calabar, in very strenious verification lines.
It is also worthy of note that the pensions and gratuities for which labor is at loggerhead with the present government were all incurred under the previous government which was still collecting higher sums of money, than the present government, from the federation account as well as higher IGR.
The story under Governor Ayade who is getting far less federal allocation and for some months now, zero allocation, due to deductions at source to service debts owed by previous governments, is that of payment of workers salaries in advance.
For this, the governor has earned himself the sobriquete “Salary Master”.
At a time that some states are owing their workers salaries of up to 14 months, governor Ayade has not allowed the imbalance in the state’s huge wage bill as against the far lesser income, to affect the salary of workers.
What then can possibly justify a strike action by the organized labor in the state in the light of these?
Even states where workers are owed up to 14 months arrears are not on strike but in Cross River where workers are not owed, labor insist on striking, leaving one to wonder if this is a sponsored strike action.
To put things more in perspective, it would interest one to know again that the monthly wage bill of the state far outstrips the monthly allocation accruing to the state, with internally generated revenue also dwindling.
It is clear that in order to meet this wage bill, the state government has been ingeniously augmenting this shortfall to pay salaries alone.
Senator Ben Ayade’s administration has faithfully paid these salaries conscientiously for more than two years despite the recession.
Cross River State is also one of the only states in Nigeria that is giving promotions in recession, having promoted and appointed about 33 Permanent Secretaries in less than a year.
The state is also one of the only states giving mass promotions without examinations as required by the civil service rules because of the governor’s desire to motivate the work force.
The questions one should ask then are, how is the state governor achieving all of these and is still able to make some developmental strides in the state?
Because even if you rely on the Paris Club refund, the money will still not have been enough to clear the backlogs.
Why is organized labor in the state, which not long ago named the governor as the, Most Labor Friendly Governor in Nigeria, being inconsiderate to the plight of the state and its numerous citizens?
The entire civil servants in Cross River State are a little over 33,000 which constitutes less than one percent of the population of the state, yet consume a hundred percent of the resources accruing to the state every month.
I do not need to emphasize the fact that the unproductive and over bloated nature of the civil service has been a challenge to the state government for many years.
Yet the state governor has remained committed to meeting the challenges of paying, as at when due, the salaries and remuneration of this small number of people to the detriment of the state and the larger number of citizens and residents of the state.
Maybe by paying salaries promptly and regularly, labor may have unwittingly formed the impression that there is a vault of money from where the governor is drawing money to pay them.
But it must be made clear that the resources of the state are for the benefit of not just civil servants but all citizens and indeed residents whom the state owes the responsibility of providing security, infrastructure, social security, good governance and development.
It is thus unreasonable for a small demographic of the state’s population to expect that all the resources of the state must be expended on them. Indeed it is unattainable.
The Senator Ben Ayade Administration will continue in its strive to meet the demands of its workforce and make effort to build capacity in order to ensure greater productivity without reneging on its commitment to also meet the developmental needs of many other citizens of the state who deserve a share of the resources of the state.
The state government has agreed to the terms of the labor force in the state, has fulfilled more than eighty percent of the agreement and is indeed ready to do more and one will expect that the organized labor will reciprocate this gesture by calling of the strike and asking workers to return to work immediately.
The state governor has shown enough goodwill and indeed has been very tolerating of the antics of the leadership of organized labor in the state.
How would one explain the action of labor leaders who declared a strike and switched off their phones, after a late night meeting with the governor in his private residence where he aceeded to most of their demands?
How would one also explain the decision of labor to chose to go on strike on the eve of the visit of the Bakassi Deep Seaport Assesment Team, the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo, the Minister of Women Affair, Senator Aisha Yusuf, the ICRC and delegations from the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Ports Authority to do the final vetting of the deep seaport?
To take such actions and switch of their phones at a critical time they needed to have been reached for the amicable resolution of the issues at stake is nothing other than sabotage and an attempt to arm twist the government, which is unacceptable.
We are not unaware that the Nigeria Labor Congress Chairman in the state, Mr. John Ushie, who himself got double promotion from level 14 to level 16 under the Ayade government, no more qualifies to be part of the union, talk less of leading it, having been promoted to the senior cadre of the civil service in the state.
We are not also unaware that while still working with the state government, without a study leave, he went ahead to read Geology in the University of Calabar which is wrong by the civil service rules.
Mr. John Ushie, it must also be stated, has been working in the government printing press since he joined the service. The printing press has not worked for 25 years. One wonders what work John Ushie has been doing for government in a moribund printing press for 25 years to earn him promotion to level 16 in the civil service.
All these, the state government has overlooked in order for peace to reign.
Yet labor goes around sending inciting messages full of falsehood just to spite a government which has been so good to workers.
Going forward, the state government may need to be firmer with labor as the honeymoon is over and may not need to over reach itself in order to meet their needs.
Something must have to give and as the state government continually makes commitment for the well being of its workers, we expect organized labor to also show goodwill and understanding.
God bless Cross River state.
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