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Borno NLC threatens strike action over unpaid gratuities

The chairman of the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) in Borno State, Titus Ali-Abana, has threatened to lead workers on a strike if the state government fails to pay workers their gratuities of over five years.

He claimed retired workers from various cadres are being owed over N20 billion in arrears.

“The last time the state government approved payment of retirees’ gratuity, which is a statutory benefit every retired workers get at conclusion of their service was in 2013,” Mr Ali-Abana said.

The official told journalists,Thursday evening, in Maiduguri that the failure of government to pay these benefits has inflicted pains on them.

Mr Ali-Abana also lamented that the state government has not been paying leave grants and promotion benefits.

“Since June 2013, the government of Borno has not been paying workers’ gratuity and this has only created a huge backlog of almost about N20 billion for both the state and the local government.

“We also want government to restore the monthly installment payment of gratuity, which is about N150 million, if not even, consider increasing the amount to meet up with the daily increase on the number of persons retiring from the state civil service.”

He said the labor union had become tired of repeated promises by the state government.

“We have severally written to the government and even had face to face meetings with the governor and the head of service but all have not yielded any positive result for our retired workers many of whom are today dying of heartbreak due to non-payment of their benefits.”

Mr Abana, who spoke at the government house Maiduguri where he and some officials went to meet the governor, said if the meeting failed to yield any positive response, the union will embark on ”a massive industrial action”.

“We have done our best in trying to follow the government through the diplomatic doors and dialogue; but we are tired of going back to our members and retired workers with empty hands. Should this fail, we have no other alternative than to go on a big worker’s strike action.”

“There are even other issues of outstanding arrears of workers like the issue of N18, 000 workers minimum wage that is still outstanding, coupled with lots of undue reductions or omission of workers’ pay recorded during the biometric capturing of workers data which has not been rectified till date,” he added.

The Borno State head of civil service, Yerima Saleh, in February 2018 announced that the state governor, Kashim Shettima, had approved N1 billion to offset part of the owed gratuities.

The official who was widely quoted in the media, said the fund, was in addition to the N2 billion earlier approved for the same purpose in 2017..

Efforts to get the head of service to clarify the controversy proved difficult as his phones could not be reached.

However, commenting on the official’s claims, Mr Abana confirmed that N3 billion was released by government but explained that the funds ”were only meant to service the gratuity of some top retired civil servants”.

“The said N1 billion released for 2018 as well as the N2 billion of 2017 was specifically released for payment of gratuity to retired civil servants, permanent secretaries and judges as well as arrears of leave transport grants for serving workers.

“Given the amount owed to retirees and the number of people affected, the N3 billion government is talking about was like a drop of water in the ocean. It did not even clear the remaining months of June 2013,” he explained.

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