From Rejoice Ojodubiun, Lokoja.
Curses, snide remarks, and calls to God for help summed up the rage and outburst of angry civil servants in Kogi State expressed against the implementation of half salary pay package by the state government which began on Thursday, the eve of Muslim Sallah celebrations.
But medical doctors flatly refused to collect a Kobo because the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was not part of the negotiations between the state government and labour leaders that workers be paid half salary.
It is the second time within a week the State is witnessing disagreement betwent the government and workers.
About 100 lecturers were sacked at the Kogi State University last week for refusing to teach students as a result of their industrial action that predates the strike action called by the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Thursday, in spite of objections raised by the organised labour in Kogi State to the decision to half their salaries, civil servants started receiving alerts from Zenith Bank of their pay cut.
The state capital had been awash with the speculations since Tuesday of the plan of the state government to pay half salary to the public service workforce.
The “rumour” became reality on Wednesday when the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress NLC/TUC were invited by the state government for dialogue on the development. “It was the first time ever government recognised labour for such industrial discourse,” a source said.
“The meeting was deadlocked as the organised labour rejected government’s decision to pay half salary on grounds that she suffered a drop in July allocation from the Federation Account,” the source added.
The state government, it was gathered, explained that the sum of N800 million was deducted from its allocation to commence the refund of N20 billion bailout fund it received from the Central Bank last year.
“Labour argued that the deduction should not affect the state government’s ability to pay full salary to the workforce in view of the fact that apart from the N20 billion bailout fund it had also collected N18 billion as its share of the Paris Refund along with the monthly allocations and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
“Labour also contended that the claim of government that it was spending N3.1 billion monthly to workers was not tenable as the previous government handed over a N2.7 billion monthly wage bill.
“This was the bill the governor contested and instituted a screening exercise which they claimed had yielded N1.6 billion reduction monthly.
“They therefore rejected the half pay policy and directed civil servants to consider the half pay as sallah gifts, urging the state government to be ready to account for the bailout fund and Paris Club refund in a bulletin earlier released today,” an insider said.
The meeting ended in a deadlock.
“But in line with his rash and aggressive style of governance, Governor Bello directed the Account General of the state to issue payment orders to Zenith Bank on the half pay policy,”a top civil servant told everyday.ng.
Workers were yesterday distraught and many feared the situation may lead to a serious labour unrest in the state any moment from now, because as one source put it, “it is obvious they may never receive full salary in the life of this administration.”
Meanwhile, thousands of workers and pensioners who have issues with the screening exercise are still being owed between seven and 20 months salary arrears while those that have been taking regular pay are being owed two months.