Bayelsa State local government and health workers, yesterday, suspended their three-month strike in protest of unpaid salary by council authorities.
A meeting of the Joint State Executive Council (JSEC) comprising Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) as well as Medical and Health Workers’ Union (MHWUN) agreed in Yenagoa to call off the strike.
The unions, in a communique signed after their meeting by NULGE’s state President and Secretary Mr. Akpos Ekiegha and Mr. Peace Chukwu directed workers to resume work on October 16.
The document was also signed by state Chairman and Secretary of MHWUN Mr. James Adama and Letam Nwibani.
Workers called on the government to work out modalities to settle salary arrears, ranging from seven to 15 months.
They said they decided to resume work after assurance by Deputy Governor Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd) and Commissioner for Local Government Administration Mrs. Agatha Goma that the state is making efforts to clear the arrears.
The unions called on the Local Government Service Commission and Ministry of Local Government Administration to work out ways of funding the Local Government Pension Board (LGPB) to address pension challenges.
“To achieve this, we candidly advise that a committee of critical stakeholders be urgently inaugurated to properly verify all pensioners.
“As the current retirement exercise is reducing the wage bill of the council, it is our expectation that part of the funds realised from the retirement be channelled to the pension board to guarantee regular payment of at least the monthly pension”, they said.
The unions commended Governor Seriake Dickson for intervening to resolve the plight of primary school teachers by approving monthly funding of their salary deficit.
“This will obviously bring about a sigh of relief to the eight councils and ultimately guarantee regular payment of salaries not only for council workers but also primary school teachers to restore industrial peace”, they said.
On issues that led to the July 24 strike, they said: “It was precipitated by the crisis of irregular payment of salaries, which led to accumulated arrears. Our decision was also informed by government’s withdrawal from the payment of primary school teachers.
“This development adversely affected councils in the smooth discharge of their salary obligations to workers. The consequence was the introduction of alternate salary payment between council workers and primary school teachers one month after the other.
“This was in spite of relevant constitutional provisions and precedents set by previous administrations and sustained by the Restoration Government to the extent that government was initially taking 83 per cent and subsequently 60 per cent responsibility of the primary school salary bill up to December, 2015”.