In the spirit of promoting cordial Government – Labour relations the Bayelsa State Government has approved the payment of the 5 months arrears of the N18, 000 minimum wage to its workers.
Similarly, pensioners who are yet to receive their retirement benefits would soon have cause to smile as the government has also approved the release of another N500 million for that purpose.
The state government announced the approvals during an interactive session with leadership of the various workers’ unions under the state chapters of the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress at the Executive Chambers of Government House, Yenagoa.
It however said payment of the arrears would take effect from January 2014, as budgetary provisions were not made for it in the current fiscal year.
Addressing the labour leaders, Governor Seriake Dickson expressed appreciation to the state workforce for their abiding support and dedication to the implementation of government’s policies and programmes.
He particularly praised them for cooperating with government in the enforcement of the Personal Income Tax Act (PITA), as required by the laws of the country.
“Let me commend all the workers both in the public and private sectors for their dedication and for keying into the restoration agenda of Government.
“Government has no problems with labour and will not have any; we exist to serve you and the people of this state. We will however not shy away from taking decisions that are in the best overall interest of the state. Going forward, I can only assure you of a cordial working relationship as I have always assured other segments of the Bayelsa population.
Restating the commitment of Government to the welfare of workers, the governor noted that his administration would not pay lip service to the issue of staff training and re-training, describing it as a veritable means of increasing efficiency and productivity in the service.
Briefing the press on the outcome of the meeting, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Deacon Markson Fefegha, pointed out that government acceded to most of the demands of labour to strengthen the existing harmonious working relationship between them.
In his remarks, the Head of Service, Sir Fraser Okuoru assured pensioners that the next batch of retirees would receive their gratuities as soon as the approved funds were released.
He said, “The issue of PITA as you know is a national law that the state government is implementing. It is not an invention of the Governor. For the arrears, we have agreed that government would commence payment as from January 2014, which would be spread for not less than 2 years. The reason behind shifting it to January is to enable government budget for it. For instance this year there is no budgetary provision to pay that kind of arrears.
Also speaking, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mrs. Ebiuwou Koku Obiyai and her Trade Union counterpart, Mr Tari Dounana stated that labour accepted government’s position on the current tax regime since it was in conformity with the national law.
They however announced that government has agreed to pay a 15 per cent rebate of whatever amount collected as tax from workers.
According to Mrs Obiyai, “On the issue of six banks, we were made to understand that, they have even increased it to ten. But we are also looking at other modalities of bringing in more banks. We are in touch and we have been told that workers are not supposed to immediately begin to open account with the said banks until all the processes are completed.
“We also discussed the issue of other allowances like overtime. The Governor is in support that overtime allowances be paid to the people that are actually doing overtime. He reassured us of training and retraining and also promised to acquire a place to construct the public service institute which was demolished some years ago.”
Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Bayelsa State