CROSS Rivers State Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Labour Ben Ukpebi has been invited by the State Security Service (SSS) for questioning over the ongoing strike embarked upon by workers in the state.
The State NLC General Secretary Ita Ayi, who revealed this to newsmen, said the strike was continuing despite the invitation.
Ukpebi had, in a notification letter sent to the State Governor Ben Ayade on Monday, announced an indefinite strike beginning from midnight today.
According to him, the strike was necessitated after series of agreements affecting workers’ welfare reached with the state government had been repeatedly ignored.
He said Labour had also explored all avenues to resolve the impasse but they had been ignored by the state government.
“We have sought all avenues for dialogue with the state government but we were ignored, and this strike is total and indefinite,” he said.
“We will rather go to jail than abandon our demands this time around because this government has just one year and six months to end and if we fail to have our demands met now, there will be no other auspicious time.”
He listed their demands to include: the non-implementation of workers’ promotion since 2016; non-payment of gratuities to retired workers since 2014; failure to re-absorb 33 workers whose names were wrongly deleted from payroll; refusal to move compilation of payroll from auditors to accountants; and failure to implement yearly step increment for workers.
“During the implementation of Minimum Wage in 2019, the Organised Labour agreed with the state government on a certain percentage and after a year, the minimum wage would be implemented in full but up till now, that has not been done and even the agreed percentage is done haphazardly.
“Even for those who have retired, gratuity is not paid. It will shock you to know that some workers in the local government who retired since 1990 have not received their gratuities and most have died. We cannot continue to live this way.
“The 27 percent Enhanced Salary Allowance for teachers, which the Federal Government approved has been implemented in other states, Cross River State is yet to do so and all efforts to make government do that have failed.
“We are not on strike against Governor Ben Ayade but Cross River State Government. Our demands are important to us and should be met. We are open for dialogue at any time but for now, let all the workers down tools to press home our grievances until they hear from us.”
He said an implementation team had been set up to monitor and ensure complete adherence to the strike by all state government workers.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to Governor Ayade on labour matters Effiong Ita Umoh has faulted the strike.
Umoh, who spoke in a radio interview on Tuesday morning, said that the leadership of NLC had no right to block government offices and would be held responsible for any damage government properties would suffer due to their actions.
He said that government offices were occupied by labour union members, noting that political appointees and other officials should have the right to access their offices.