The whirlwind of labor demonstrations and resulting strikes which swept through the 4 out of the 5 South East States of Nigeria last week appear to have worsened amidst dissipating hopes that talks with the State government and the labor unions will begin – to ease the way to the end of the workers strike. Last week, the four states of Ebonyi, Enugu, Anambra and Imo States joined in the indefinite workers strike to protest the refusal of the State government to implement the minimum wage stipulated by the federal government.
While the workers in the 4 States sat home and refused to continue coming to work until their respective government adopts the new salary scale, 247ureports.com learnt that other sister/brother labor unions opted and joined in on the strike – to further pressure the State administration.
In Enugu State, the strike has nearly brought the State to its knees. This is following the not-so-friendly manner the State Governor handled the leaders of the labor union when the strike was announced. The governor had ordered for the arrest and detention of the labor union leaders following the announcement. Gov Sullivan Chime topped his ill treatment of the labor union leaders by turning to the courts to sue the labor union.
The governor’s action, as expected, backfired. Other brother/sister labor unions followed suit in solidarity with the civil servants. The banks and a significant sector of the markets closed their doors. All banks in Enugu remained close till Friday September 16, 2011 when pressures from local persons and artisans who could no longer cope without accessing the banking institution mounted to unbearable levels. According to a bank executive who spoke to our correspondent, the banks opened their doors cautiously to help alleviate the pains of some of the residents in Enugu. Petrol, kerosene, diesel has been scarce due to petrol transporters union who also joined the solidarity strike. The filling stations in Enugu are said to be empty because tankers are not transporting fuel to Enugu State. Other sectors, including private schools are reported to also have joined the strike. Worsening matters is the stalemate between the Enugu State government and the labor union. The governor of Enugu State is said to be headstrong on not negotiating with the State workers on the minimum wage implementation.
In Imo State, the case does not appear as grim. The prospects for an end to the ongoing strike appear bright partly because the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha had earlier agreed to pay the minimum wage. But had asked for time, an unspecified amount of time to allow him get a grip on the accounts and financial state of the State before he would begin the payment. The labor union did not buy his request for time and so declared a strike. As 247ureports.com learnt, the government of Imo State has begun intense talks with the labor to end the strike. The details to the talks are not certain but a source within the Okorocha administration assured that Okorocha is engaged with the labor unions and that the workers will be expected to resume work soon.
The opposition in Imo State against the All Progressive Grand Alliance [APGA] governor appears to add an additional anomaly to the ongoing push to bring the strikers back to work. In particular, the political associates of the defeated former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, according to sources in Imo State, may have commandeered the leadership of the labor unions into bidding chaos in the state administration of Okorocha. The source points that the associates are determined to prove that Okorocha administration will be unable to make good on his promise to deliver on the minimum wage. The source also added that the governor is fully aware of the moves against his administration.
The workers strike also struck Anambra and Ebonyi States over the minimum wage crisis. In Anambra state, the governor had promised to implement a negotiated amount that is slightly lower than the minimum wage. The labor leaders were said to reject the negotiated alternative which they term “Obi Minimum Wage”. The same is said to be the case in Ebonyi State. Both governors of the two states claim to not have enough money to defray the cost associated with the implementation o f the minimum wage salary.
The lone South East State that has not witnessed the hammer of labor union strike appear to be the only state with the controversial policy of firing all none indigenes of the state’s payroll. Abia State recently asked all non-indigenes to submit their letters of resignation – in an effort to trim the fat in the state civil servants.