The Oyo State Government has said that the 10-month old agreement it had with organised labour in the state over unpaid salaries subsisted, warning them to refrain from confrontation.
This is contained in a statement signed by Alhaji Ismael Alli, a former Secretary to the State Government and leader of the government delegation and made available to newsmen in Ibadan on Saturday.
“We urge labour leaders to embrace dialogue and consultation instead of issuing threats and ultimatum of strike.
“As stakeholders they should brainstorm on how to bail the state out of its financial predicament,” it said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that labour leaders and the Joint Negotiating Council had on March 29 issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government to meet with them over unpaid salaries and pension.
The state government had consequently convened a meeting with the labour leaders on March 31 and Friday, April 1 respectively.
Alli said in the statement that both parties had agreed that the 10-month-old agreement subsisted.
“At the meeting on Friday, the state government reaffirmed its compliance with the subsisting agreement with labour whereby 90 per cent of allocation from the Federation Account is devoted to payment of salaries and wages of workers on monthly basis,” he said.
The former SSG also observed that the present conduct of labour was at variance and in total disregard to due process, labour law and practices.
According to him, government believes that the labour leaders are being insensitive and confrontational.
“The labour leaders used the opportunity of the meeting to apologize to Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
“They denied the allegations and apologized accordingly. They assured the government of cooperation and maintenance of industrial harmony in the state,’’ the statement quoted Alli as saying.
He said that the labour leaders painstakingly explained that the ultimatum was misunderstood, denying any attempt to ridicule the governor or imperil the pervading industrial harmony in the state.
He said that the apology had been accepted by the government and the governor, who had directed that the subsisting agreement be adhered to pending the exploration of avenues to improve the revenue of the state.
Alli said that both parties had agreed to explore regular consultations, dialogue and due process as they jointly seek solutions to the poor position of the state’s finance, attributed for the five months’ salary owed workers.
The former SSG disclosed that a consultative committee comprising labour and government representatives had been set up to harmonise the current available revenue allocation.
The committee would also recommend the best way forward in the face of the state’s dwindling revenue, he said.
“We need to jointly and urgently employ strategies of eliminating ghost workers from the salary bill of our workers as well as identification, arrest and prosecution of fraudsters within the system.
“In the spirit of collective responsibility, both parties have agreed to collaborate and evolve ways of blocking all financial leakages in the system with a view to jacking up the internally generated revenue of the state.
“A more positive and creative disposition is critical for turning around these times of adversity.
“It was resolved that all concerned should have learnt some lessons after this brief period of unnecessary and avoidable altercation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Waheed Olojede, Oyo State Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the negotiation was ongoing and that a committee had just been set up to meet regularly over the matter.
“The last paragraph of the agreement stated that the Memorandum of Understanding was subject to review from time to time at regular meetings.
“This is why we issued an ultimatum for a meeting between the government to review the agreement in line with the prevailing economic situation and the dwindling federal allocation to the state,” he said.
The NLC chairman denied that labour leaders apologised to government on the matter, saying that the ultimatum issued was a tool of industrial practices.
“The claim by government that labour has agreed to the 10 month MoU as subsisting was false.
“I wish to state that much as another round of negotiation between government and labour has commenced, it has negated the one under reference.
“Let it be noted that negotiation is ongoing and it resumes on Monday as agreed by government and labour as at the last adjournment last Friday.
“Let me also state that an ultimatum is a veritable instrument of industrial relation practice it, therefore, calls for no apology from labour for using its legal instrument,” he said.