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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Aluta continua, but so far Mutfwang has done well – Labour leaders

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By Harry Soempit

In many states in the country, the tales of woe by workers, especially against governors, has been loud, and at times deafening.

But Plateau State has been different going by stories coming out from there. It perhaps shares that record with Abia State where Alex Otti’s romance with workers has been on a rosy path.

Reports fron the Plateau says so far, Governor Caleb Mutfwang has maintained a harmonious working relationship with the diverse workers’ unions, taking time to explain things so they could be on the same page for industrial peace.

Read the testimony by the State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Eugene Manji: “So far, the relationship between the government and the Labour has been cordial because most of the issues we have are being handled. He is giving us the listening ear either through the Office of the Head of Service or his own Office but in labour issues, we can’t get 100% solution that is why we are aluta continua.

“Since January 2024 the Governor has revived the hope of the pensioners he has upgraded the minimum pension to N20,000. The outstanding backlog of gratuities, pension and death benefits are being paid from 1986. Those who were affected are being cleared till 2009.

“Those who retired on May 30, 2023 he is also paying concurrently. When he pays the arrears, he pays the current because he doesn’t want to accumulate it during his tenure. This is our joy, you can’t work for either 35 years of service or 60 years of age and be denied your entitlements while you languish in penury, sickness and death.

“What he is doing is commendable and the payment of salaries have been very timely. This is what workers want.”

Generally, public servants in the state who retired from service 36 years ago and are still living but yet to receive their entitlement might have given up hope, thinking their labour for the State had been in vain.

Since 1986, these senior citizens many of them bedridden have been owed their gratuities while some of them were collecting as little as N5,000 as pension.

Several attempts to get their entitlements and have their pension reviewed once there is any increment in the salaries of active workers didn’t haven’t yielded any tangible results.

When Caleb Mutfwang came on board, he assured everyone of an encompassing governance that would give every citizen a sense of belonging, reiterating that the payment of salaries howbeit pension is not an achievement but an obligation that his administration would not joke with because “a labourer is worthy of his wages”.

Shortly after resuming work, the Governor cleared the backlog of four months’ salaries owed to the striking workers which stood at N11bn.

He initiated a first-of-its-kind retreat for Government officials and Labour Unions to build their capacity to engender cordial government-labour relations.

The Governor further matched words with action, giving hope to those whose hope was lost as he approved the payment of the arrears of pensions/gratuities and death benefits from 1986 to date.

Apart from the pensioners, he also approved the upward review of Hazard Allowance for Medical Doctors, Nurses, and Health Workers (CONMESS/CONHESS) and, to motivate the civil service, he has continued with the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage and given approval of N12,000 to each civil servant as palliative for fuel subsidy removal.

There is also the payment of Overhead to MDAs, restoration of electricity supply to the State Secretariat, provision of palliatives which included bags of rice, bags of maize, and trucks of fertilizer to cushion the effects of the economic hardship as well as the constant payment of check-off dues to the respective Unions.

The State Head of Civil Service, Mrs. Rauta Dakok, said “The Office of the Head of Civil Service obtained approval for the release of Three Hundred Million Naira (N300,000,000.00) monthly to settle arrears of pensions/gratuities and death benefits from 1986 to date…

“There is an upward review of Hazard Allowance for Medical Doctors, Nurses and Health Workers (CONMESS/CONHESS) including non-clinical. There is an upward review of minimum monthly pension for pensioners from N5,188 to N20,000 with effect from 1st January 2024…”

The State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Mr. Ben Bello scored the Governor high “at this point” saying, pensioners have not had it this good.

His words, “The Governor is doing very well, this administration is good for us, he is performing very well. For now, we have no complaint but commendation.

“People are collecting their gratuities. From 1986 to 2009, most of them have been paid except those whose files have not yet been seen. The list for 2010 has been compiled and they are prepared to disperse the money. Files are still being traced for payment.”

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