…over unpaid salaries in LGAs

by Yusuf Lawal

NULGEAn indefinite strike action by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) Taraba state council was averted at the last minute, in December. This was after workers’ shutdown the 16 local governments in the state on December 15, demanding the payment of backlogs of wages with the bailout funds released to the state.

After a series of meetings between the three unions in the LGAs (NULGE, NUT & MHWUN) with the permanent secretary of the bureau of local governments and chieftaincy affairs, accountant general, commissioner of information and the chief of staff, salaries up to November were paid in the week of Christmas.

The state government informed the trade unions that, while it requested for N37bn from the bailout funds to be able to fully pay up on outstanding wages, it could secure only N9bn. Meanwhile it had incurred an overdraft of N7bn which was taken out of the N9bn by the banks. The state initially claimed that it couldn’t even pay up to November, but had to “source” funding somehow, to avoid a wave of strikes in the LGAs.

The NULGE state secretary, Comrade Garba Adamu accused the state government of deliberately refusing “to address the plights of council workers”. The state government claims that this is not so, saying it is constrained by dwindling resources from the federation account. This is however, only partly true.

If political office holders earn the salaries of the average worker, and channels of waste as well as corrupt enrichment are blocked, there would be more than enough to pay workers. Further, it is important to stress that the current global economic crisis which the sharp fall in oil prices is a part of, if a reflection of the unsustainability of capitalism as a social-economic system.

Workers must not bear the burden of crisis borne out of the bosses’ greed. The payment of wages when due is a right. Even when wages are promptly paid, workers are in the bondage of wage-slavery. Our take-home pay can hardly take us home. Taraba LGA workers will not continue to groan under this yoke for long. The NLC and TUC have to work closely with NULGE, NUT & MHWUN to ensure a systematic fightback for the due payment of the workers’ outstanding salaries.