Monday, 9 November 2009

On Collision Course

The organised labour in Enugu State battles the state government over the retrenchment of 163 staff of the Enugu State Waste Management Agency, ESWAMA

By Maurice Okafor

The sack of 163 employees of Enugu State Waste Management Agency, ESWAMA, a parastatal of the state government is likely to set the state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on collision course with Governor Sullivan Chime. Labour is surprised that after the recall of some workers sacked by the previous administration, Chime could approve mass retrenchment of workers now that labour is hoping for industrial harmony with the state government. Osmond Ugwu, chairman of NLC in Enugu State called on church leaders in the state to prevail on the state government to rescind its decision to avert industrial crisis in the state. The Enugu State chapter of Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, also said it would not rest on its oars until the 163 retrenched workers of ESWAMA are recalled. The state chairman, Comrade Omotayo said in a press statement that CLO sees the action of the agency as unjustifiable.
The ESWAMA management had in a letter dated June 4, 2009 and signed by one Mr. M.C Ukwueze titled: “Staff Rationalisation Exercise,” said the affected workers were relieved of their appointment on the ground of age, false declaration of age, ill-health, redundancy and those whose services are no longer relevant to ESWAMA. The letter urged the affected staff to clear with the administration of the parastatal and look up for the payment of their retirement benefits. But the affected staff said the exercise was done in bad fate and in negation of the civil service rules. They told this magazine that the state head of service had conducted a review of employees of the state government parastatals in the state on the instruction of the state executive council. According to them, only 68 employees of ESWAMA were recommended to face a panel to be constituted by the state government on their fitness to continue as employees of the state government. The aggrieved workers accused the ESWAMA boss, Mr. Greg Anyaegbudike of working to satisfy the selfish interest of Mr. Chijioke Agu, the state commissioner for environment who influenced his appointment.
Patrick Anwuna, the leader of the aggrieved retrenched workers told this magazine that he could not imagine where the ESWAMA boss drew the strength of his action from, if not to satisfy the selfish interest of the commissioner of environment who also oversees the activities of ESWAMA. Anwuna disputed the ground of their retrenchment and said most of the affected staff are still very energetic and have not reached the age of 60, contending that every matter concerning their retirement should comply with conditions of their employment under the civil service rules and regulation because they are not casual workers.
But Anyaegbudike told this magazine that the rationalisation exercise was meant to reposition the agency for effective delivery services and curtail the burden of heavy monthly wage bills. He claimed that some of the affected staff were ghost workers who only wait for the pay day to receive salaries while they have some other businesses or job elsewhere. Anyaegbudike pointed out that while the agency receives about N2.5 million subvention from the state monthly, it has to contend with monthly wage bill of about N10.5 million on staff salaries alone, disclosing that the agency has to depend on what it sources as internally generated revenue to make up for the monthly wage bills and other operational services to remain afloat. According to him, it has become a Herculean task for the agency's operation due to a sharp fall in internally generated revenue because most city residents are not paying their bills. He denied the allegations that he was influenced to embark on the exercise by the state commissioner for environment, Mr. Chijioke Agu so as to create vacant positions to be replaced by his cronies and insisted that the retirement of 163 staff members of the agency was done in good fate. According to him, a committee was set up to ensure that the exercise was not used to witchhunt any staff.
Some of the affected staff were victims of eight years unlawful disengagement by the Chimaroke Nnamani administration.

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