The leadership of the Abia State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led by Chief Uchenna Obigwe on Wednesday visited the management of the Abia State Polytechnic Aba as one of the steps to address the labour crisis in the institution.
Sources in the State Chapter of the NLC told our reporter that the meeting however, couldn’t hold as the rector of the state institution had asked that the polytechnic’s chapter chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP), Comrade Nwachukwu Chuks should leave the institution’s Council Chamber, because, according to the rector (Prof. Ezionye Eboh), Chuks who was among the sacked 258 workers is no longer a staff of the institution.
The sources went further to state that the NLC delegation’s attempt to convince the rector that there was nothing wrong with Chuks’s presence in the meeting failed on deaf ears, as Eboh maintained that Chuks is a strange element in the meeting.
A situation they said, the NLC frowned at and decided to stage a walkout on the rector and other members of the management team.
Addressing members of staffers of the institution in front of the school’s administrative block after the walkout, chairman of NLC Abia State; Comrade Uchenna Obigwe said that the 14 days ultimatum given to the management of the school by SAANIP and NASU (NON Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics), Abia Polytechnic chapter to meet the demands of the unions still subsists.
Obigwe who frowned at the manner at which the workers of the polytechnic were sacked even when they were being owed several arrears of salary, faulted the management’s approach to the disengagement of the workers which he (Obigwe) said didn’t follow due process.
The State labour leader who carpeted the management for not making public the recommendations of a joint committee which had a labour representative disclosed that information NLC gathered had it that the committee didn’t recommend the sacking of up to 100 persons and wondered how the management arrived at sacking 258 persons.
According to the NLC leader, the management instead of thinking on how to pay its staff their 16 months’ salary arrears resorted to even sacking people who do not even have any query in their files.
The NLC leader who asked the authority of the school to clear the school of armed security agents, used the opportunity to ask the affected staff who do not forged or faked their certificates and credentials to resume work immediately and warned that if the management fails to retrace its step, the National Body of NLC may be forced to take necessary actions in order to ensure that the affected workers get justice.
“We are not here to cause crisis. We are not in support of anybody who has forged certificate or any document presented during the time of employment found to be fake.
“Our interest is for the management of Abia Poly to do what they are doing with human face. You don’t look at human face and hate them. Civil service has rules and we are saying that the rules of civil service should come to play.
“If the management wants to downsize, there are process of downsizing. If a staff is said to be redundant, you have to determine the level of redundancy. There is also a process to discipline an erring staff.
‘A staff should be given query for not coming to work which makes the management sees him or her as being redundant. The person must be given three queries before giving the person last warning and eventually being laid off.
“When we learnt about what the management is trying to do, we came and had an understanding with the management.
“A committee was setup where the labour had a representation in the person of Chris Okoro, chairman of Joint Council. The committee has done their job. Up till today, Labour has not gotten a copy of the report.
“We are saying that before anything happens here, as far as implementation is concerned, we have raised a communiqué which we have sent to the management. We are asking for the report of the committee so that we will be sure that what they are implementing is what is in the report.
“From our information, we heard that the committee didn’t recommend the sack of up to hundred persons. How come that we are hearing the sack of 258 workers?
‘Before anybody is sacked, we should know why the person is being sacked. Even those, whose names were not invited for the verification exercise in Umuahia, were also sacked.
“Those who don’t have query in their files were also sacked. And labour is saying no to it. Labour is determined to protect the integrity of every worker in Abia State Polytechnic.
“The ultimatum given to the management of Abia Poly by SSANIP and NASU still subsists and at the expiration of the Ultimatum, then, we will decide on what next to do.
“We have told management to recover the said sack letter from the people that they have given it to. They should do the right thing at the right time. Join labour, let’s know what they are doing.
“Labour is not going to fight for people that has problem of forged certificate or any other fraudulent activity, our hand is not there. Those people should go because Labour is not in support of anything fraudulent. But for the issue of redundancy, we are saying No to it.
“Management of Abia Poly should be thinking on how to offset the outstanding 16months salaries. You cannot owe people so much and say that you are downsizing under the guise of redundancy. It is unfair to human being. The national leadership of Labour is aware of this visit.
“If they want to mess up Abia State before labour in Nigeria, we will help and support them. If they also want to do the right thing at the right time, following the norm, we will help them.
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“We don’t want anything that will bring crisis here. All we know is that we will follow every activity that we are going to do legally. So far, as at today, nobody is being sacked in Abia poly, unless those who forged certificate, nobody is sacked. Government should carry labour along. Whether you are given sacked letter or not, what Labour is saying is that you should go back to work.”