Members of Staff of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Ika South Local Government Chapter have withdrawn their services, as a result of non payment of four months salaries. The strike, which began on Friday, July 24, 2009, led to different offices within the Council under lock and key. As at the time of filing this report, the Council Secretariat was devoid of any activity, except for some senior members of the council who were seen discussing the issue.
Speaking on the action of the council workers, the Chairman of NULGE, Com Marcus Ugbaja told Ika Weekly that for some time now, they have been negotiating with the Executive to see how their salaries could be paid. He stated that it is true that a high percentage of the money that comes to the Local Government Council is used to pay teacher?s salaries. Nevertheless, Com. Ugbaja said instead of the workers being paid with the remaining part of the money allocated to the council, it is rather used to pay workers? imprest. He stated that the Council workers have not gone on strike, rather, they have decided to withdraw their services, due to the fact that on July 13, 2009; a congress was held for them to look at the state of affairs the Council, where issues including non payment of staff salaries, payment of seminar fees, hotel accommodation to councilors and constant increase of imprest in the office, while salaries of workers have not been paid were discussed. After much deliberations, it was resolved that at least two months salaries be paid to the workers, and that the payment should be made on, or before July 22, 2009. He explained that after the Council staff had met the second time on July 24, 2004, it was on that day that they left their offices for their different homes. He told the workers to exercise patience and to be on the lookout for further directives.
On his part, the Chairman of the Council, Hon. Hilary Ibude, told Ika Weekly that he was not happy with the action of the workers. He said that the Local Government employees should have written a letter to the office of the Executive Chairman of the council, to brief him of their decision before withdrawing their services. The Chairman said though he sympathizes with the workers, the leadership of NULGE should adhere to laid down procedures before embarking on strike. According to him, full-blown strike should only be called after a warning strike which lasts for few days and further 21 days ultimatum. He stated that owing to the economic recession, which has affected most sectors of the Nigerian society, coupled with the fact that school teachers? salaries usually take very high percent of the allocation to the Local Council, it has become very difficult to pay workers salaries. He explained however, that the Council has commenced sourcing for funds to meet the needs of the Local Government Council and that conclusion has been reached for the workers to receive their two months salaries.
Hon. Ibude said that it is unfortunate that the new NULGE Chairman should allow his people to withdraw their services at a time when he was just taking over from the former NULGE Chairman, stating that he should borrow a leave from his predecessor and co-operate with the Executive; so that the work in the Local Government Council can move forward. He used the opportunity to advice the NULGE Chairman not to allow himself to be influenced by any politician, but rather to concentrate more on the work which he has been duly mandated to do in the Local Council for the interest of all the workers.
Meanwhile, Com. Ugbaja told Ika Weekly that plans are underway to resolve the crisis within the Local Council. As at the time of filing this report, he said that the Ika South branch of NULGE executive were about leaving for Asaba, the State Capital, to meet with the State NULGE Chairman for possible resolution of the matter.