The Anambra State Government has appealed for greater understanding and harmonious working relations with workers in the state judiciary which has recently been disrupted by a one-month long strike.Addressing newsmen at the weekend against the backdrop of threat by some officials of the Judiciary Staff Workers Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to resist move by the judiciary workers to call off the strike, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Solo Chukwudobelu, wondered why the Judiciary Union is insisting on the implementation of an unrealistic promise by a government which had increased the salary of state workers by 15% in January 2015 and is one of the few states in the country that continues to pay salary regularly.
According to Prof Chukwulobelu, “less than nine months after a salary increase across board for all workers and further assurances to JUSUN during negotiations that its agreement would be met when the IGR improves, a union which should be working in tandem with the government is going on strike to enforce a unilateral increase for its members, what is really their motive. He queried?”
He also expressed shock that some members of the union who were ready to resume work were allegedly being threatened by their leaders and assured that the government under the worker-friendly governor, Chief Willie Obiano would ensure the protection of those who were willing to return to work.
Prof. Chukwulobelu was however happy that other unions like the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria and other affiliate bodies appreciated the need to shelve their demand for an increase in salary until the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) improves and blamed some officials of the judiciary operating under the auspices of JUSUN for the industrial action, describing it as “ill-timed, unnecessary and insensitive.”
He explained that the outgone administration had in 2011 accepted to implement a version of the CONJUSS as agreed to, by the government and the State Branch of the Union, with a view to reviewing same, when the finances of the State improves. But he expressed worry that the said finances of the State are yet to improve and the Union is insisting on the implementation of the salary structure, adding that even when their insistence presently is no longer in the spirit and letter of the agreement reached with the State government In 2011.
The SSG further explained that the State government had shown considerable concern since the commencement of the strike by JUSUN, by holding several meetings between the Union and relevant organs of government and has offered to have the salary of staff of the judiciary reviewed upwards in 2016 when the State’s IGR would have doubled, in line with governor Obiano’s earlier promise to public servants in the State which he regretted JUSUN rejected.
Professor Chukwulobelu reiterated that the governor’s passion and commitment to the welfare of workers in the State made him even without promptings to review upwards the salaries of workers in the State, judiciary workers inclusive, at a time when most states of the federation whose revenue from the Federation Accounts (FAAC) is higher than that of Anambra State are not able to pay workers’ salaries,” with a promise for another review in 2016.
In attempt to explain the insensitivity of the JUSUN demands, Prof Chukwulobelu drew attention to the fact that the salary of the least paid staff of the judiciary in 2015 is higher by N5, 291 than what he earned in 2011 when the agreement was signed while that of the highest paid staff shows an increase by the sum of N21, 732, excluding Guard Allowance paid to entitled officers which increased by the sum to N8, 872 monthly.
Making a comparison between the level of FAAC receipts when the Agreement was made in 2011 and what it is presently, the SSG observed that Anambra State received the allocation of N4,362,504,974.91 in August 2011 as against the shortfall of N3,528,162,295.42 received in August 2015 with a difference of N834,342,679.49.
Similarly, he said the State received the sum of N4,251,312,255.01 in September 2011 while it received lesser allocation of N2,861,307,916.42 in September 2015, given a difference of N1,390,004,338.59.
Professor Chukwulobelu wondered why JUSUN decided to shelve, until the finances improve, the implementation of CONJUSS in 2011 under the more buoyant outgone administration that it entered the agreement with than the present administration that continues to receive declining allocation from FAAC.
He said that the staff nominal roll of State High Court in 2011 was 1,152 as against 2,318 in 2015 with the monthly gross salary of N45,514,765.80 and N91,242,187 respectively while the State Judiciary Customary Court of Appeal had 768 staff strength in 2011 as against 1,446 in 2015, with the monthly wage bill rising from N34,009,991.49 to N51,499,922 respectively, both reflecting a 100 percent rise in staff strength and wage bill.
JUSUN had gone on strike to demand the implementation of Consolidated Judiciary Salary Structure (CONJUSS) agreed in year 2011 with the previous administration, but the current government insisted that owing to dwindling revenue, it can only fulfil the promise when the State revenue generation improves as projected in 2016.