20 December 2012

Nigeria: Plateau Workers Deny Offer of Three Months Salary By Govt

Striking workers of the Plateau State Civil Service have denied that the state government discussed with them on paying them salaries from October to December.

The workers said at no time did they renege on government on dialogue.

Reacting to the claim that all offers and moves for dialogue had failed because the labour unions were unwilling to understand with government, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Jibrin Banchir, said "if they say they have three months to pay, we can always understand with them; if they have a challenge paying the remaining four months, they can call us to a round table and we would discuss the modality of paying the remaining four months while the workers resume work. But up till this moment, government has not called us to discuss the issue of any three-month salaries."

But in a sharp contradiction to government's earlier claim that it was willing to pay the workers from October to December, the state Commissioner of Information and Communication, Mr. Abraham Yiljap, said he was not aware of any press conference where government agreed to pay three-month salaries.

He said the state has its usual channel of passing information to the public, adding that "whoever addressed such a press conference, I want to say I am unaware of it."

Yiljap said 90 per cent of moves towards a resolution of the impasse have been by government. He added that all ended fruitless because the labour unions have refused to agree to the voice of reason.

He said religious/denominational leaders, stakeholders, well meaning individuals, groups and recently traditional leaders; all had appealed to Labour on the crisis but to no avail.

He said: "Once again, it is necessary for Plateau citizens and indeed all Nigerians to know that the court option became necessary to have the Industrial Court interpret the "No work, No Pay" rule, the procedure for declaring strike and the legality of solidarity strike which are central to resolving the dispute," adding that government will respect and abide by the verdict of the court on the matter.

Governor Jonah Jang had through his Director General, Research and Planning, Mr. Chris Kwaja, told journalists on Tuesday, in a press conference, that government was willing and ready to pay the workers from October to December if they were willing to resume work.

Banchir, who was represented by Comrade Richard Gbawuan, deputy secretary, Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria also decried the brutality by police on workers who were on peaceful protest.

He said the police used tear gas and live ammunitions on its members resulting in hospitalisation of the members, adding that two of their members, in the course of the struggle died in an accident on Tuesday.

But reacting to the allegations, the police denied using live ammunitions on the workers. The state Police Commissioner, Mr. Chris Olakpe, described the allegation as most untrue and unfair.

He said he was aware of the court order restraining protest by any group in the state because of the fragile peace. But that the workers went ahead on protest march along Tafawa Balewa Street causing traffic jam that could escalate into unforeseen mayhem. And to avoid that, the police went to disperse them using the minimum force as possible.

He added that no fire arm was used.

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