The Bayelsa State Government on Tuesday restated the need for a review of the extant revenue sharing formula in the country to enable state governments pay appropriate wages to workers.
Governor Seriake Dickson made the call while responding to a number of issues raised by the organized labour during this year’s workers’ day celebration, in Yenagoa, with the theme, “Labour Movement in National Development: Dare to Struggle, Dare To Win.”
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Francis Ottah Agbo, said the Governor who was represented by his Deputy, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, (Rtd), noted that labour has contributed immensely to nation building over the years.
Governor Dickson who described workers as the live wire of any nation, justified their demand for a living wage.
He however emphasized that state governments should be involved in making inputs in the ongoing negotiations for a new national minimum wage to ensure uniformity and effective implementation of any agreement that would be reached on the issue.
His words:” The minimum wage is a very serious issue in the country but we must also be cautious how we go about it. The states must have inputs because we should not make promises that we cannot fulfill.
“As we speak, some states can’t pay the 18% minimum wage because of the existing revenue sharing formula between the federal and other tiers of government.”
On the salary arrears owed workers, Governor Dickson explained that government had initially promised to offset the arrears based on expected Paris Club refund before March this year, but attributed the failure ‘to circumstances beyond its control.’
While commending organized labour in the state for their understanding and support to the current reforms, he stressed that the restructuring of the public service was for the overall interest of the state.
On media workers’ weigh-in allowance, Governor Dickson explained that appropriate organs of government had been directed to study the issues and report back to government for necessary action.
Reacting to labour’s demand for modern sporting facilities in the Samson Siasia Sports Complex, he called the contractor to expedite action on the completion of the renovation work as government had fulfilled its contractual obligation.
“The ongoing renovation of our stadium, is something we must commend government. The last time we met, the Governor clearly stated that government has finished payment for the job to be done and the contractor couldn’t deny.
“We expected the turfs and tracks to be ready by now. Government has done its part so we are challenging the contractor to complete his work so that we can start engaging in world sporting activities in this state.”
Presenting a joint address of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, the state NLC Chairman, Comrade John Ndiomu, commended government for offsetting part of the salary arrears owed workers but however called on the state government to make concerted efforts in clearing the remaining arrears to all categories of workers.
Comrade Ndiomu who also stressed the need for government to defray promotion arrears and pensioners entitlements, said the call has become imperative in view of the significant improvement of monthly allocations from the federation accounts.
Other demands of labour include, training of civil servants, accreditation of programmes in state-owned tertiary institutions and an appeal for the Governor to direct local government councils to re-absorb and pay teachers who have been cleared by the Judicial Panel of Inquiry.