• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Imo Labour calls Okorocha’s bluff over mass sack of 19 parastatals

businessday-icon

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Imo State, in a decided and prompt reaction to Governor Rochas Okorocha’s mass sack of all workers in 19 state parastatals, have called his bluff, and have asked the affected workers to continue reporting for duties, and ignore ongoing announcements on state radio asking them to “stop reporting to duties, as the state the government could not afford paying them any longer.”

Counter announcements on two radio stations, Hot FM and Heartland FM all in Owerri began on Monday, asking all affected workers in the 19 state parastatals to continue to report for duties, ignoring the government statement on the state radio, Orient FM.

On Friday, 15 January, the state government began announcing that it has placed indefinite suspension of 19 parastatals in the state, asking workers of the affected agencies to stop reporting for duties, because government could no longer afford to pay their monthly salaries and allowances.

The sack announcement by the Imo government came barely 48 hours after Governor Okorocha’s denial to national and regional leaders of NLC, led by its national chairman, Ayuba Wabba, that he was not planning to sack workers.

The NLC had stormed Imo, to warn the governor not to go ahead with his planned sack of about 4,000 Imo civil servants, in the name of redundancy.

Imo NLC chairman, Austin Chilakpu, who confirmed the Labour counter announcements on Hot FM and Heartland FM, all in Owerri, said, Labour viewed strongly the radio announcement to sack the workers in 19 parastatals as ‘fake,’ going by the authority from which the order emanated.

According to Labour, such sack announcement should have been signed and issued by the Head of Service (HOS) in the state, who is a top civil servant heading the entire civil service. As a technocrat, the HOS is a position attained, and not appointive, like the Secretary to State Government (SSG), which more of an politically appointive position.

Labour also argued that “no employer sacks or retrench his/her workers via radio announcement, or on the pages of newspaper,” let alone those of the civil service, whose sack must follow laid down civil service procedure, should there be need to downsize.

According to Labour leader, Chilakpu, affected staffs to be laid off are, first of all, queried, and if the query reply is not satisfactory, then some punishment can follow later; adding that sack was usually the last option. But in this case, none of the procedure was followed to sack well over 4,000 workers.

Thirdly, the Imo Labour said they had ample reasons to doubt the authenticity of the purported workers’ sack, because Governor Okorocha had, only 48 hours earlier (Wednesday, 13 January) denied before the NLC national president, Ayuba Wabba that he would sack workers.

Chilakpu, Imo NLC boss said: “whoever signed the purported sack announcement, actually insulted Governor Okorocha, because that person has portrayed the governor as a liar, and a betrayer. That after giving his word to visiting NLC national president, turn around to do the opposite.”

He said further that: “Even if there is need to downsize in the civil service, there are laid down procedure which must be followed. Not just rising up one morning and announce on air that people are sacked.

“This is not normal, and Labour believes it is fake announcement, which should not be given a thought; hence we have asked our members in the mentioned parastatals to go for their normal duties.

If they are molested, then Labour would know what next to do. We stressed on the need to obey the Law, but anything contrary will be resisted,” he stated.

Meanwhile, announcement to sack the workers, which began on the state media of radio and television (Orient 94.4 FM and IBC Channel 59) on Friday, 15 January, detailed that all the workers in the 19 parastatals should stop reporting for duties from Monday 18 January.

However, some parastatals were exempted for unexplained reasons. These are: Imo Hospitals Management Board, Imo Blue Lake of Tourism, Imo Library Board, Health Centres, Imo Pensions Board, Imo Cattle Market, Imo Job Center, IWADA, Imo Poverty Alleviation and Imo ADP.