A move which may avert ongoing threats by organized labour in the State to summarily shutdown the system may have been set in motion.

The move is coming as the government increasingly suffers credibility problems not only with workers, but also with its members in  the PDP.

Shocked by what obviously translates into signs of an internal rebellion within the PDP, an inside source hinted that the Government swung into action “to avoid another show down with labour in order to protect its sagging image.”

“Faced with credible information that workers may down tools, the Rivers government opened channels of communication with labour to massage its ego and change the narrative”.

“Many Rivers people have been disenchanted with the N500 million money dash to Sokoto State. Thereafter, we learnt when those presidential posters came out that our dear Governor was using our money to gamblie for power”,  the source added.

The Rivers State Government which has hitherto turned a blind eye to concerns by labour over their welfare has disclosed it is now ready to settle all outstanding issues with labour.

As part of the strategy to engages workers, a tripartite body which would deal with the complaints advanced by labour has been constituted.

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The panel which begins sitting next week has six weeks to complete its assignment and file a report with the Rivers State Government.

Recall that the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo hinted in a press statement issued on Friday after a meeting between State Government and Labour in Port Harcourt on Friday, 12th February, 2021 that an agreement on the implementation of the National Minimum Wage of N30,000.00 (Thirty Thousand Naira) which took effect on 1st January, 2020 has been executed.

 

He revealed that the  Tripartite Committee would deal with all outstanding issues which are generating differences between the State Government and labour.

“Rivers State Government has agreed and commenced implementation of the payment of check-off dues and the payment of arrears of salaries of Health workers in the Rivers State Public Service who participated in the sympathy strike of 2017 under the auspices of JOHESU”, the State Government explained.

It further stated, “Other issues which were raised by Labour” such as the  “payment of arrears  of minimum wage, Promotion of civil Servants from 2012, Payment of gratuity to pensioners, Payment of arrears of salaries to some civil servants who were not paid their February and March, 2016 salaries due to the aborted 2016 biometric verification exercise etc” would form the fulcrum of the deliberations.

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The SSG declared, “The tripartite committee is to commence sitting immediately for a period of six weeks after which a report will be submitted to the Government.”

Those on the Government’s side who attended the meeting included  the Head of the Rivers State Civil Service, Rufus Godwin, Esq.

On the side of the Labour Union were the Chairman of the State Labour Congress, Mrs Beatrice Itubo, Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Pastor Jonah Austin, Chairman of the Joint Public Negotiating Council, Mr Emechita Chukwu and other labour leaders.

A Labour leader, name withheld told this publication, “It is fine that Government has decided to reach out to labour. It will not be the first time. We are waiting to see what will come out of the forthcoming discussion.

“Let me emphasise that we are not excited. We know the style of the Wike administration. We know that it is not a Government that practices what it preaches.”

Given what appears to be the scope of the proposed deliberations set out by government,  there is no indication, at least in the open, that the fate of former civil servants who are retired would be firmly addressed.

Governor Wike had revealed that Government devotes about N1.8 billion monthly to the payment of pensions and gratuities.

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But pensioners are however insisting that the said payments are not enough to address their concerns, especially against the backdrop of unpaid pensions and gratuities.

“Our colleagues in the service should broaden the net of understanding. They are in the service today, tomorrow they will leave, and when they do, they will suffer the kind of fate that we are going through.”