The Benue State House of Assembly has appealed to labour leaders in the state not to insist on payment of five months’ salary arrears before calling off their ongoing strike.
Organised labour had on October 3 commenced an indefinite strike over the owing of civil servants seven months’ salaries,primary school teachers and local government workers 11 months and retirees 13 months’ pension allowance.
The labour leaders had noted that workers would not suspend the strike until the payment of five months’ salaries.
But in a response, Governor Samuel Ortom, during a radio programme, said his administration could only pay one month’s arrears across the board.
The state assembly, during its extraordinary session on Friday, however, appealed to labour leaders not to insist on five months’ arrears payment before suspending the strike, noting that their stand would push the government to borrow about N40bn.
The Speaker of the state assembly, Terkimbir Ikyangir, who made the appeal, told the labour leaders that the implication of borrowing money to pay workers would be counterproductive if the cause of the state’s “huge wage bill” was not tackled.
Ikyangir said, “Insisting on four or five months’ (salary arrears) payment before suspending the ongoing strike will amount to government taking loans of about N40bn. But let me appeal to the labour leaders to allow government tackle headlong the source of the huge wage bill..
“Part of the move is the ongoing screening exercise, which I think will help us find a lasting solution to the problem.”
Earlier, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Godwin Anya, stated that the union was worried about the huge wage bill and explained that it had also commissioned a committee to come up with the state’s exact wage bill.