By Andy Esiet, Calabar
Workers in Cross River state have shunned the Federal Industrial Court and the State Government’s orders for striking civil servants in the state to resume work on October 21, 2021 immediately.
The strike action by the organised labour in Cross River state comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Joint Public Negotiating Council (JNC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) entered the 11th day today as they are protesting against the non-implementation of the full 27.5% teacher’s enhancement allowance, non-implementation of promotions, non-remittance of deductions from banks, non implementation of minimum wage among others.
A visit to the two state secretariate yesterday, some state agencies, departments, the courts and schools, workers still did not turn up for work and the gates of most of the offices were closed. But in the Governor’s Office some top civil servants were sited running skeletal services in preparation for any further action.
Justice Sanusi Kardo of the Industrial Court of Nigeria in Calabar, had on October 19, restrained Labour and other affiliate unions from further holding rallies in pursuant to the strike and locking up of government premises and ordered that the strike should be suspended with immediate effect saying, the strike action by labour did not comply with S.18 of the trade dispute Act.
Justice Sanusi Kardo who urged parties to “negotiate on any issues if there are any to be negotiated to arrive at amicable resolution”, issued the order following a suit instituted by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice,Tanko Ashang Esq against the NLC in the state for embarking on strike and locking up government offices .
Following the court order, the State’s Head of Service , Mrs. Geraldine Akpet-Ekanem on Wednesday night issued a statement and called on workers to report to work following the order by Justice Kardo squashing the strike as any “absenteeism will not be accepted”.
The letter reads: “Following the indefinite suspension of the industrial action by Order of the National Industrial Court, the State Government has directed all Permanent Secretaries and Workers to resume work unfailingly on Thursday 21st October, 2021 at 8.00am.
“Workers are requested to note that attendance will be taken at the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by the Directors/Heads of Administration and immediately submitted to the Office of the Head of Service for necessary action, absenteeism will not be tolerated” .
But labour in their bulletin nine dated October 20, charged civil servants to “continue to stay at home until you hear from us” and chided the state government saying, “instead of settling our demands, the government of the Prof Ben Ayade is rather shopping for a court order to truncate our ongoing strike action”.
The bulletin further reads, “Comrades, discountenance any directives from any person from the state government. Not even a court order can break our determination to get justice from the government. We cannot be made slaves in our state! Don’t pay attention to any directive from anyone in government”.
The Chairman of TUC, Cross River state ,Com. Monday Ogbodum said, “the workers are not complying with the orders from the court and the state government, the workers will not comply because court has never called off strike before and to add to it the order is directed to NLC, is it NLC that called out the strike? We are not honouring the order. We are not aware of any court process or order”.
Also reacting to the court and government orders, the Secretary, Joint Public Negotiating Council (JNC), Comrade Clarkson Otu said the organised labour followed due processes before embarking on the strike action and the the order from the court was strange to them as no process was served on them but “we must meet with the people who sent us first before any decision can be reached and let it be known also that court order cannot compel workers to go back to work, we must meet as a group and decide before anything happens”.
In a similar development, Women Street Sweepers on Monday and Wednesday took to the streets demanding payment of their six months salary.
The poor, helpless and frail looking women who started the protest on Monday with a match to the governor’s office chanting,”Ayade pay us our salary, hunger will kill us please pay us” continued on Wednesday carrying fresh leaves along Marian road, Murtala Mohammed highway insisting government must pay them their six months salaries. They were however teargassed.