As Benue State workers yesterday joined the rest of the states to celebrate this year’s Workers Day, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Benue State chapter boycotted the celebration in protest to the non-payment of workers’ salaries and monthly pensions of retirees which had accumulated to several months.
The State TUC chairman, Comrade Ordue Tartenger said the decision to boycott the May Day celebration was taken in solidarity with the affected workers and pensioners and to also demonstrate their feelings about the present government.
Although, Governor Ortom had last week declared a state of emergency on salary and promised to source for funds through every legal means to enable him pay backlog of salaries owed workers and pensioners in the state, the TUC lamented the increasing hardship being faced by workers and pensioners in the state.
Comrade Tartenger posited that the non-payment of salary to a large number of workers and pensioners at the state and local government levels over the past five to nine months had destroyed the civil service and the workforce of the state.
“Non-payment of salary and pension has led to the loss of lives and also brought untold hardship to workers in Benue State and the Union under my able leadership is not happy about this.”
“You asked me to mobilize workers from local government to come for celebration, what would they use to transport to the celebration venue when they have not been paid for months. And even if they come, what will you tell them? I refused to engage workers in more agony and pains.”
But Governor Ortom, who personally attended the celebration at the IBB Square, explained that the difficulty Government was facing in payment of salaries was occasioned by the current dwindling economic fortunes of the country.
He said it was for that reason and the fact that he aware of the plight workers and pensioners in the state are going through that was why in a meeting he held recently with labor leaders, declared a state of emergency on salary with a plan to put on hold all other projects and concentrate on payment of salary.
“I want to assure our workers that we understand their plight. The current financial situation is not limited to Benue State but we shall overcome the situation,” Ortom said, appealing to workers in the state to support his administration in its drive to do the right thing.
Earlier in his speech, state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Godwin Anya enjoined the Governor to step up on regular payment of salaries, general security and protection of farmers and farm lands from terrorizing herdsmen.