By Nathan Nwakamma
The Bayelsa government has suspended and stopped the salaries of 3,403 workers in the ongoing public service reforms.
The Head of Service of Bayelsa, Rev Thomas Zidafomo, directed that salaries of 222 staff of Bayelsa owned media houses and 3,181 non-teaching staff in the State Universal Basis Education Board (SUBEB) be suspended.
Zidafomo in a letter dated Apri 6, 2018 directed that the withheld salaries of the affected workers listed as ‘excess workers’ be remitted to the Accountant General of Bayelsa.
But the unions have kicked against the action and urged the government to rescind its decision.
The protest of the unions is contained in a statement jointly issued by Mr. John Ndiomu, Chairman of the state chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and his counterpart in the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr. Tari Dounana.
The labour noted that withholding of salaries of workers listed for redeployment was strange and urged the government to carry out the reforms in compliance with Public Service Rules.
“Labour wishes to draw government’s attention to the ongoing public service reforms. It is proper to note that redeployment of staff is a norm but stoppage of salaries is not in line with civil service rules.
“Labour therefore calls on government to review its directive on the stoppage of salaries as it is against the public service rules.
“We also wish to remind government of its pledge that the reforms would not lead to job losses and ask that it abides by it,” they said.
The Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) of SUBEB, on Monday also urged the government to reverse its decision.
NASU with 3,181 non-teaching staff affected in the reform issued a 14 –day ultimatum to the government to rescind its decision or face a strike.
The Bayelsa chapter Chairman of the union, Mr. Geku Ebiwari, in statement issued after an emergency congress of the union noted that the workers were not under any trial to warrant the suspension of their salaries.
Ebiwari said noted that there was no need to stop the salaries of the workers if the exercise was a re-deployment as claimed.
However, Mr Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Bayelsa Commissioner for Information, said that there was no going back in the reforms.
He said that the government would pursue the policy to a logical conclusion.
He maintained that the reform was necessary to “rid the public service of an excess workforce and in the process deliver a leaner, smarter and productive workforce that is better equipped to serve the state.”
Iworiso-Markson allayed fears that they had been sacked and explained that the affected workers would be trained and deployed to other areas of need.
According to him, those found unsuitable in the public service will be eased out with financial assistance to start off their businesses.
He further said that Governor Seriake Dickson is scheduled to receive the report of the state Public Service Reforms Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha Jonah (Rtd), on Tuesday.
The submission of the report is preparatory to meeting between the governor and leaders of the organised labour on Wednesday.