By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Members of two labor unions in the College of Health Technology Calabar (COHTECH) on Monday defied the weather and stormed the Governor’s office in Calabar demanding the implementation of a seven year old salary scale.
The unions; the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) say only COHTECH is the only tertiary institution in the state yet to benefit from the Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Academic Salary Structure (CONPCASS) and the Consolidated Tertiary Education Institutions Salary Structure (CONTEDISS) which was agreed alongside the new minimum wage of NGN18,000 in 2011.
“We are protesting because of the non-implementation of the CONPCASS and CONTEDISS salary structure in the state for us which has been implemented for CRUTECH, College of Education Akamkpa and ITM Ugep; only College of Health Technology Calabar is left behind,” the ASUP COHTECH branch chairman, Comrade Okon Ekpo Etim told journalists.
He continued: “This salary scale was approved by the National Salaries and Wages Commission Abuja since 2011 and since then it has been implemented across the tertiary institutions in the country including the Universities, Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Colleges of Health Technology.”
Mr. Etim who said they were invited for a meeting with the Deputy Governor which never held also disclosed that they have exhausted other avenues to reach the state which according to him, has kept saying there is no money for seven years and averred that the protest commenced a three day warning strike.
“We have written to the state government, it was captured in the 2018 budget and the government had given approval on the 27th of September 2017. We have reminded Government severally, we have given 21 days’ notice and 14 days and seven days and this is the last action which is a three day warning strike to inform government that we need that salary at all cost,” Etim said adding that: “Government has kept saying there is no money, we should give them some time. We have given them seven years. This is a college which mobilises students for NYSC: the College of Education does not, ITM Ugep does not, why are we been deprived?”
Explaining further, the state chairman of SSANIP, Comrade Emmanuel Enyiegor told journalists that: “At the moment, we are the only tertiary institution that produces HND graduates and mobilise same for NYSC. If you have given to institutions that produce only NCE and institutions that have only ND1 students; we are saying that government should give it to us. For seven years we have been patient, we have been hearing the plea of the government, government has been telling us to hold and we have been holding; and in 2017 September, government approved the payment off this salary structure from January 2018.”
He added that: “Let me also say that this structure was captured in the 2016 budget, the 2017 budget and the 2018 budget and let me also inform government that this tertiary institution is a professional body and as I am talking to us from the 28th of this month we will be having three professional examinations where institutions from other states will be coming into our state to write.
“If at the expiration of this three day warning (strike), government does not attend to us, we will shut down indefinitely. Our people use to say that the patient dog eats the fattest bone but in Nigeria and in Cross River, government is saying to us that the patient dog should starve to death. Our salaries are not up to half of what our brothers and sisters in tertiary institutions are receiving and we are saying enough is enough.”
As at press time, the placard bearing unionists numbering over 100 who spent over an hour chanting solidarity songs under the rain were invited by a lady who identified herself as Stella Erem, an aide to Govenor Ben Ayade on labor matters as well as an Assistant Commissioner for Police, Mr. Nkereuwem to the Ministry of Finance to discuss.
The Governor, his deputy and other principal government functionaries were yet to arrive the office as at press time.
Mr. Ayade has traveled out of the state since last week. His deputy, Professor Ivara Esu is said to still be on leave while it is unclear why the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs. Tina Agbor was yet to arrive the office.
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