Oyo State Government has frowned at the three-day warning strike declared by the joint section of the Oyo State Executive Councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, and the Joint Negotiation Council, JNC, which began on Wednesday.
The striking workers declared the strike in solidarity with their colleagues in the six public tertiary institutions in the state, which the Governor Abiola Ajimobi-administration has stopped paying their salaries for the past one year.
The affected institutions which had been on strike since November last year after 15 months that the state government has paid their salaries are: The Polytechnic, Ibadan; Emmanuel Alayande College of Education, Oyo; Oyo State College of Agriculture and Technology, Igboora; The Ibarapa Polytechnic, Eruwa; The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki, and College of Education, Lanlate.
According to a letter signed by the Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Abimbola Adekanmbi which was dated September 20, 2016 and titled “Stoppage of Subvention”, addressed to the Vice Chancellor, Rectors and Provosts of the affected institutions, the government informed them of its intention to stop grant of subventions to the institutions.
This development was totally rejected but government went ahead to stop the grant, asking them to generate money that would be used in paying their salaries.
Stating the reasons for the necessity of the strike, the Chairman of the state chapter of the NLC, Waheed Olojede, said the strike was also called to protest the sacking of 256 workers at LAUTECH and other issues affecting the health sector as presented by the Joint Health Sector Union.
In a press statement signed by the Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Alhaji Olalekan Alli, the government said it has not erred in law to have stopped paying the salaries of the state tertiary institutions and asking them to generate their income.
The statement reads: “By the laws setting up the tertiary institutions, Government is not responsible for the payment of salaries of workers in those institutions. In order to assist them, government is only obliged to grant the tertiary institutions subventions, which each institution would apply to whichever area of need that its Governing Council and Management may decide upon.
“The recent forensic audit reports on the tertiary institutions revealed a great deal of shortcomings such as inefficiencies, leakages, poor management, and other ineptitude. Some institutions were even declared unsustainable and nonviable. The consultant further recommended their closure. However, the recently constituted Governing Councils have been mandated to review their statuses and act suitably”.
The government berated the state workers for carrying out illegal strike, saying that they failed to explore round table discussion before declaring the strike.
The statement stated, “The Oyo State Government received a letter yesterday 23rd January, 2018 from Labour conveying its decision to embark on a three-day warning strike from 24th – 26th January, 2018 on the following issues: alleged 17-month arrears of salaries of workers in the State’s tertiary institutions, alleged 56-month arrears of pension and gratuity of retired primary school teachers and sack of 256 members of staff of LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso.
“Upon receipt of the letter, government invited labour to a meeting which Labour promised to attend at 4pm yesterday. Despite our agreement, Labour failed to attend the scheduled meeting.
“Government hereby declares as follows:
“Government has consistently honoured its obligations to labour by ensuring monthly salaries are paid from the 100 percent FAAC allocation to the State and the Budget Support Fund including over 70 percent of other receivables (Excess Crude and Paris Club Reimbursement despite the Federal Government advice of 50 percent payment therefrom for salaries).
“Government has also been fulfilling its other responsibilities, commitments and functions using other resources such as IGR, Credits and Grants at its disposal to satisfy the yearnings of the people as would be expected.
“Salaries and pensions of workers at the State level have been paid up till and including November 2017 with only one (1) month salary and pension (December 2017) outstanding.
“By the laws setting up the tertiary institutions, Government is not responsible for the payment of salaries of workers in those institutions. In order to assist them, Government is only obliged to grant the tertiary institutions subventions, which each institution would apply to whichever area of need that its Governing Council and Management may decide upon.
“The recent forensic audit reports on the tertiary institutions revealed a great deal of shortcomings such as inefficiencies, leakages, poor management, and other ineptitude. Some institutions were even declared unsustainable and nonviable. The consultant further recommended their closure.
“However, the recently constituted Governing Councils have been mandated to review their statuses and act suitably. Contrary to labour’s allegation, although Government on assumption of office in 2011, inherited Local Government Pension arrears totalling N4,736,741,934.49, it is on record that Government has disbursed pensions and gratuity of retired primary school teachers to the tune of N11,729,534,282.54.
“Meanwhile, to avert further build up and eliminate the hardship arising therefrom, the Contributory Pension Scheme has been adopted as a solution to effectively address the issue.
“In view of the foregoing, and while dialogue continues, Government views the unilateral declaration of a 3-day warning strike by Labour as absolutely illegal, unwarranted and unjustifiable. Government hereby appeals to Labour to shelve its illegal unilateral industrial action.
“Similarly, Government enjoins all workers in the State not to absent themselves from duty, as doing so will attract the no-work no-pay rule according to the Trade Dispute Act 2010 Section 43(1)(a)”.