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Labour Unions in Nimet suspend planned Strike Action after House Lawmakers intervention

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JONAS EZIEKE, Abuja

 

Labour Unions in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency  NiMet have  suspended the planned strike action scheduled to begin on Monday, 20th May, 2024.

 

This is a consequence of an agreement and resolution reached on Sunday, 19th May, 2024, during a special session convened by the House Committee on Aviation and Technology which started 2pm and ended 9: 35 pm.

 

Hon. Abiodun Akinlade Ishaq who read the communique to suspend the planned strike at the end of about nine hours interactive Session with the NiMET management and it’s labour Unions said that within a period of four weeks the issues raised by NiMeT Labour unions will be resolved and their outstanding areas will be paid.

 

Hon. Akinlade read: “Today 19th May 2024, the House of representatives committee on Aviation technology met with labour union and  management team of Nigerian Metrological Agency, Abuja led by it’s Director General, Professor Charles Anosike to discuss the proposed industrial strike by the NiMET staff on the failure of government to pay forty five months areas of minimum wage consequential adjustmen.

 

“After more than eight hours Meeting, deliberation, discussion, the following resolutions were reached:

 

“That NiMET will by tomorrow, Monday 20th set up a committee on the review of conditions of service of NiMET staff. This committee will draw two members from the labour union.

 

“Two, that the house of representatives committee on Aviation technology will set up Sub-committee  to be chaired by the deputy chairman, house Committee on technology to liase with the ministry of finance, budget Office, IPPIS and other relevant agencies to ensure the prompt payment of arrears of NiMeT staff.

 

“Three, that the NiMeT staff salary scale be reviewed by the national income salary and wages commission.

 

“That within four weeks of this meeting this matter will be resolved with the payment by paying the outstanding areas to the NiMET staff.

 

“That NiMeT staff should suspend planned strike action for now pending the payment of the areas between now and four weeks.

 

“And that the labour union has agreed to work in harmonies with the DG and management of NiMeT in carrying out their day to day activities.

 

“That this committee thanks the management of the NiMeT for all the efforts they have taken to ensure that the welfare of NiMeT staff are taken care of. This committee also appreciates and salutes the efforts of the various

. Union that have been part of this meeting for over 9 hours. So, we thank you all, God bless you”. He ended.

 

Earlier, the Ogun State federal legislator said the parliament has a duty to intevene on the impending strike by the labour unions in NiMeT to provide solution and maintain peace in the country.

 

Hon. Akinlade said “we have all gathered here today to look at the situation and the way out on the impending crisis that may likely going to happen tomorrow so ( Monday). We don’t have any country to call our home than Nigeria. Because if there is peace in our working place, there will be peace in our homes.

 

“That’s why the parliament has decided to intervene and see how we can provide a solution. To find a win- win solution to the crisis. We don’t see it as a crisis, we see it as family matter. We don’t need to pretend that there is a tension in the country. Why the government is trying to put a lot of things in place, the masses are suffering and they are crying and crying to us and their crying has reached our ears.

 

“And we need to ensure that we don’t add to the already tensed situation in the country. And that’s why we have called this meeting. The meeting was called at the instance of the media reports that the Union had planned to go on strike on Monday based on the outstanding issues that concern the welfare of the NiMeT staff. It was based on the fact that we reacted swiftly by sending message to the Union that if we could meet today ( Sunday) to prevent tomorrow ( Monday )’s strike”

 

Other members of the committee took turns to make comments and appealed to the  aggrieved Union to take it easy with government that their issues will be looked into within the grace of four weeks period as agreed.

In his response, the Secretary General, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees ( AUPCTRE), Shittu Waheed who spoke on behalf of other Unions at the meeting such as ANAP, NUATE and SSASGOG thanked the committee for intervening into their plights.

 

He noted that the unions are not interested in grounding the economy if the right thing was done.

 

Mr Waheed had earlier said “nobody is interested in disturbing the peace at the working place if the right thing is done. This issue has lingered for about four years now. And honestly speaking, Nimet staff have been one of the very patient staff among Nigerian workers I have ever seen.

 

‘Because several times there will be agitations. We would talk to them. They will just respect us and then we would move on. That’s why the thing has lingered  up to forty five months unpaid consequential adjustment of salary. In Nigeria’, we all go to same market to purchase the same commodity, the same foods.

 

” But this group of people have been denied their consequential adjustment of salary for this lengthy period. We have been on this case as I told. We have had series of meetings. They have formed committees for us to look at how this thing will be done. At a time, we needed to pity the management of NiMET. We felt it was not their fault. We felt that we should come in to see what we can do jointly.

 

“We have gone to that level, committees were formed and met with the board about all those things. At a time, the issue was on a serious burner. We were invited by then honourable minister of labour, Dr Chris Ngige February 7th 2022 and it was clear in that meeting that the payment will be made from wide service vote. That we should go and rest that they will start paying. And we told the management of NiMET to pursue that issue as at that time.

 

“Expectedly, if there are issues affecting workers in your environment, you should have called the Union that are there to jointly  see what you can do to solve the problem but it has not happened. Even the main issue May Day and those simple things that should be done ordinarily by management, were not done, were not given to the management of the NiMET Union. The management hasn’t been labour friendly since they came on board.

 

“The main issue now is 45 unpaid consequential adjustment salary.As at the time we wanted to go on strike early this year, they told us that they were going to pay. Since they have an IGR which can take care of the payment. As at that time, they said that may be they  only needed an approval from the ministry. So, based on that,we also relaxed on the matter.

 

“And what they did was to pay only three months by reducing it from forty five to forty two months and they stopped. And since that time, all appeals, every other things we have been talking to them have failed. As it is now, the workers of NiMET have been pushed to the wall. The workers are seriously agitated. We as leaders, we know the amount of pelting, appeals and other things that we have been doing to them to maintain peace as at now.Despite all these, we are not even appreciated with what we are doing. So, the issue of protest or strike tomorrow (Monday) is not something we are just doing now. We have been doing it before, we have been trying to do it but there have been interventions but all interventions have failed.

 

“Because they would give promise and that promise has never been fulfilled. It has always been this type of approach we have been having all of the years. Any time we are trying to go on strike, we will be invited for a discussion to stop the strike. We have witnessed that not once, twice or thrice. And they say, once bitten, twice shy. Despite all the meetings, nothing has really happened.if our demands are met, there is no need to go on strike.We have three major demands: the outstanding forty two arrears of consequential adjustment of salary should be fully liquidated. We are not going to take stories now. We are not happy with the operation of funny salary structure for NiMET called CONIMET.

 

“I must tell you sincerely that all in the aviation industry in Nigeria. NiMET is the poorest paid workers in the whole of aviation industry. The fact can be checked. And if you look at the function we perform now, it is so enormous. For flight to go, they need to get weather reports from NiMET other information for them to fly. That’s how important our service is in the aviation industry. NiMET workers are not even enjoying recent thirty five percent increment. They will pay to others, they will not pay us. We don’t want CONIMET salary structure. It is only unique to NiMET. It is an impediment to the NiMET workers”.

 

“The Union wants better condition of service.Our condition of service is outdated and obsolete. As a result of this, the Union wants committee to be set up immediately to discuss the issues of condition of service of NiMET workers.

 

On his part, the Director General, NiMeT, Professor Charles Anosike who appreciated the committee chairman and the members for preventing the planned strike said the management is doing its best to ensure the payment of the outstanding areas of the NiMET staff saying the importance of the workforce can not be over emphasized.

 

“Prof. Anosike explained “Immediately we came in January there was a threat of strike,and importantly, I was a director in NiMET for two years before being appointed as DG. In the course of that two years, I never attended any meeting. I don’t know anything about this issue of forty five months. I am not saying it’s Union’s fault. But it’s something that has been lingering for four years. During my time as a director, I never sat in any meeting about this issue.

 

“When we resumed office, because entire management is new, within one month, there was a threat of strike. We immediately swung into action, I was surprised the secretary said there was no meeting. We called the meeting. It was a very productive management meeting between January and March. Entire management and directors are aware of this issue. All of us are working together on this issue. No one can claim ignorance of this forty five months unpaid consequential adjustment salary and efforts we have been making.

 

“Within four months, the entire management has seen the effects of what this management has been doing and I am very confident that the money will be paid. And another point to note is that it is not a NiMet problem, to say that NiMeT will pay from IGR, it like boxing NiMeT management and this can put us in trouble. It is a federal government issue and we the management have to lead because it’s the course of our workforce. It is a terrible thing to happen.

 

“We all had a meeting and we all resolved and signed agreements. There was a different between resolution and agreements.They were trying to box me into agreements and I said no, I am new here. That I have to interact with relevant stakeholders with NiMeT staff. That we have to make that process transparent. That was actually the objective of that meeting ”

 

While speaking on the effects taking so far to secure the payment of the NiMET workers, the NiMET DFA, Akoji Yusuf said the outstanding four years  salary adjustment for forty five months is totalling eight hundred and seventeen million, two hundred eighty seven thousand, one hundred and sixty four naira (#817,287,164,81).

 

He said  “this has been approved, the management wrote through the ministry, budget Office, and there was a presidential committee on salary which was chaired by minister of finance and this request was approved that this amount should be paid. Based on that approval we swang into action to follow up and ensure that this money is being paid.

 

” Upon our resumption January this, we got to know that the Union wanted to go on strike. When we investigated, we found out that it was as a result of something less. The DG and myself, Director of HR alongside the GM budget. The four have been on ground before we came. And we have been trying to see how it is going to be resolved. We went back to the drawing board. We also went to the ministry of labour who advised us that we should laise with the budget office and the IPPIS to see how we can resolved it. That is because the DG told us that the workforce is his priority and to ensure that this is resolved. That’s where we are “.

 

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