SEASON OF UNPAID SALARIES, PENSIONS AND ALLOWANCES: A foretaste of more attacks to come!
SEASON OF UNPAID SALARIES, PENSIONS AND ALLOWANCES: A foretaste of more attacks to come!
By Abbey Trotsky
On Monday, 1 December, 2015 the Guardian newspaper captured the lamentation of a worker in Benue State over non-payment of salary arrears as follow: “You journalists should help convey our plight to the governor. As you can see, it is four months now that I have not received any salary; others are being owed three months. Sometimes I trek to work and if you don’t go to work here, they will issue you query, so what is happening in Benue is bad”.
This kind of lamentation is just a glimpse of terrible pains and pang the issue of non-payment of salaries, allowance and pension has been inflicting on public workers in both Federal and state governments since the inception of the third quarter of the year 2014. It will be recalled that, as at Yuletide, over 70,000 civil servants in 30 Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government were reportedly owed three months’ salaries while over 22 states governments regardless of political parties were alleged of owing workers’ salaries that range from one to five months (Punch, December 30, 2014).
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) as well as socialists and working class activists must put up sustained campaigns and struggles to ensure that all salaries being owed are paid and that workers are henceforth paid as and when due. These campaigns must be linked with the struggles to end all the capitalist government attacks on socio-economic needs of working class and the poor.
The states that owed workers’ salaries towards Christmas are Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Kogi, Benue, Edo, Abia, and Bauchi. The federal government ministries such as Education, Works, Labour and Productivity, Mines and Power could not also pay workers. Within this period, it was also revealed that numbers of Department and agencies that owing workers’ salaries also rose from eight in October to eleven in November and hit 30 by December.
Following several public outcries and threats of strike actions by some trade unions, the federal authorities were forced to hurriedly the pay December salary and partly upset some of the unpaid salary arrears owed by its ministry, agencies among others. Some state governors who are fearful of defeat at the 2015 general elections also follow suit.
It is so sad to note that, workers in so many states are still groaning under ranges of unpaid salary arrears. For instance, in Osun state, one of the states controlled by All Progressive Congress (APC), whose candidate just emerged victorious in the March 28, 2015 presidential election, civil servants are owed five months’ salary arrears. The same state government has also reportedly failed since December 2013 to make provision for instructional materials like chalks, school registers and text books. Payment of leave and examination grants to secondary and primary school teachers has also been stopped. Health workers in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, one of the hospital controls by Osun State Government are also owed four-month salary arrears.
Also in Oyo State, the situation is not better. This is another APC controlled state where civil servants which include Local government workers, primary and secondary school teachers are being owed three months salaries. Workers in other sectors like state owned tertiary institutions; judiciary and health are also owed up to four months’ salaries arrears.
The teachers in public primary and junior secondary schools in Kogi State are also going through hard times. The Punch, February 8, 2015, reported that the last time teachers in the state received a salary was October 2014.
In Benue State, the Primary and Secondary school teachers are owed 18 months’ unpaid salary. As a result of non-payment of salaries and other entitlements, workers in most tertiary institutions in Benue which include the College of Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS), Colleges of Education Katsina-Ala and Oju, Benue State Polytechnic, Ugbokolo, and the Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture (AOCOA), Yandev, are at loggerhead with the state government. This is also the case with lecturers in Benue State University, Makurdi who are currently embarked on indefinite strike action over non-payment of their salary arrears.
Edo State also makes the list of states where workers are being owed salary arrears. Take for instance, the primary school teachers in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo reportedly protested over alleged non-payment of their January salary (Vanguard, March 10, 2015). This is barely two months after Coalition of Unions of State Owned Tertiary Institutions (COEASU) also went on indefinite strike action over the non-payment of salaries for a period spanning four months in some of these institutions.
Also pathetic is the condition of secondary school teachers in Bauchi state! Particularly, those that are being owed over 11 months salaries starting from the April 16, 2014, when they were employed by the state government. Plateau state also owes civil servants in the state four months arrears of salaries and leave grants. The worst hit among these workers are local government workers who have not been paid for about seven months.
The situation in Abia State, is such that, lecturers in the Abia State University (ABSU) are owed over seven months’ salary arrears while teachers as well as council workers were also being owed salary arrears of two months. Other states where workers are also affected by this wave of non-payment of salary and other entitlements are Ekiti, Ogun, Ebonyi, and Lagos among others.
In Ekiti state, the government also owes workers full salaries for August and September and 60% deductions in the June and July Salaries. The Governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose, has maintained that his administration is not ready to pay the August and September 2014 salaries.
There was also a report of strike action by workers in Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu, Ogun State over the refusal of the state government to pay their four years unpaid salary arrears which is said to be totalling N1.6bn. In a similar circumstance, activities at the Ogun State Secretariat, government parastatals as well as public secondary and primary schools were also paralyzed with three days warning strike action recently embarked upon by civil servants in the state to protest the refusal of the state government to pay allegedly four months “unremitted deductions” from their salaries.
Both state and federal governments have not been too fair to their Pensioners. It is in a reaction to this that ex-service men some time ago threatened to protest the non-payment of their pension benefits. The rank and file of the Nigeria police have also reportedly threatened to embark on strike action in a protest against non-payment of some of their entitlements.
The state governors in responding to these developments blamed the steady dwindling nature of the national income derived predominantly from the sale of crude oil as the cause of their inability to continue to sustain the era of prompt and regular payment of workers’ salaries, allowances and pension which is gradually collapsing.
Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State lamented that the financial crises facing the states in the country require urgent steps otherwise the states may collapse in the next three months. Gabriel Suswam of Benue State lamented that if the economic crisis in the country continues unabated, many state governments may shut down.
Carefully looking at these arguments, one could see that they are just mere smokescreen! As a matter of fact it is criminal and fraudulent to try to justify non-payment of workers legitimate salaries with the decline in the state statutory allocation. It is the bloated number of political office holders and their jumbo salaries as well as looting of the treasury that make it difficult for the state governments to pay workers’ salaries.
The servicing of debts many states incurred owing to the issuance of bond in the capital market has also eaten into their revenue.
These loans are usually misappropriated as there are hardly evidences of what they are spent on in term of infrastructure and job opportunities. Workers must not accept any attempt to make them sacrifice their salaries under the guise of repayment the debt which was stolen by political office holders and their contractors.
Rather, workers should demand that the political office holders should sacrifice their salary and allowances, which constitute the lion’s share of the wage bill comparatively, in order to pay salaries of workers. Besides, we strongly believe that if the resources accrued to states despite this decline in allocations are judiciously managed and utilized, it is enough to guarantee regular payment of workers’ salaries and to some extent make available funds for social program and infrastructural developments. This will require the political office holders to be placed on salary structure of civil servants, using public work department for projects and not profit-first contractors as well as democratic control of the resources and public works by the working people.
This will only be possible if the capitalist governments are defeated. The lever of the economy has to be completely taken from the control of the capitalist ruling elites and their representative in government and replace it by economy run on the basis of a socialist programmes of nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy placed under the democratic control and management of the working people.
Already as a result of the decline in the oil revenue, every section of the capitalist thieving elites has agreed on the implementation of the austerity measure. While trying to explain the possible character of the austerity measure, Dr (Mrs) Okonjo Iweala, the coordinating minister of economy, once revealed that all the overlapping agencies, parastatals, ministries and department are going to be collapsed. This no doubt will lead to mass retrenchment of workers.
In view of this, we hereby call on the leadership of the two labour centres, particularly the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), to go beyond just a mere setting-up of a panel to begin to negotiate with the state governors to pay all workers’ salary arrears before May 29th, 2015. They must begin the process of a nationwide mass mobilization, not only against the waves of unpaid salaries and allowances arrears across the state, but also against non-implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage signed into law in 2011 and the attempt to remove minimum wage from the legislative exclusive list and plan to retrench workers under the guise of the implementation of austerity measure.
This will mean that labour leaders must begin organising mass meetings with workers and pro-labour activists to assure them of their commitment to struggle as part of the preparation for the suggested strike which should also include mass rallies and circulation of materials like posters and leaflets.