A good labourer they often say deserves his wages. Wages is the reward of labour given under a contractual agreement. Breach of contract or agreement is not acceptable to the law. Experience shows that workers in some states are owed arrears of salaries sometimes running into more than 12 months and sadly these atrocities as we would refer to it are committed with impunity.
By the civil service rules the worker except in extreme situation are restricted from protesting for fear of sanctions and even when they protest through strike they rarely achieve their purpose. We note with concern that continued indebtedness of workers emoluments is one way civil servants are grossly abused and their rights denied.
Workers are the engine room of productivity that oils the wheel of development in any environment that they are found. It is doubtful if any government can operate without a virile and motivated workforce. It is therefore difficult to understand why the civil service is not given their due and are left to groan and weep before receiving what ordinarily accrues to them.
Imo State government is one troublous state that its workforce has regularly been in the news for the wrong reasons. Some aspects of the workforce have embarked on strike previously without touching the hearts of government officials who kept sitting on their entitlements. It is sad to remark that some of the workers have lost their lives when they become overwhelmed by domestic challenges the receipt of their salaries could resolve.
The issue of unpaid salaries and pensions in Imo predate the present government of Gov Hope Uzodimma. However, it appears to have taken the worst turn in his regime after Gov. Emeka Ihedioha tried to remedy the mess left behind by Gov Rochas Okorocha whom he succeeded. On assumption of office, it would be recalled that Gov Hope Uzodimma had promised to sustain payment of workers emoluments on the 25th of every month.
It is sad to note that ever since those pronouncements, that promise have only been respected in breach. It is reported that he jettisoned the payment process originated by Ihedioha initiating his own because according to him what he inherited is fraught with irregularities. Since then it has uncountable series of verification exercises initiated by the government to check ghost workers.
After a month in office the governor disclosed that he would be saving 2bn monthly, arising from plugging the leakages which his new processes uncovered. It sounded a good relief on paper but which in reality did not appear real given the supposed relief it is expected to provide. Government indebtedness to workers instead has worsened.
It is a sad commentary that in the last one year Uzodimma and his officials have continually been involved in uncountable verification exercise notwithstanding his salary payment reforms that took away such responsibilities from the supposed ministry to his office. It has not helped the situation. It is frustrating to say the least for a government that trumpets the so called 3R’s of rehabilitation, reconstruction and restructuring
The inability of the Imo government to straighten its payroll system has left the citizens with no choice than to give the situation varied interpretations. While some view the government as running a less than transparent and fraudulent system, others believe the government is clearly incompetent of managing a seamless process.
News Echo frowns at this offensive system which has no reason from the government and wonder why a government would continue to struggle through a process as simple as a payroll system in this era where technology in the financial system has simplified processes. It is sad that the only process government knows to resolve the challenge is continuous verification exercise.
It is disturbing that government has continued to repeat this exercise even when it is clear that previous ones were yet to yield the desired results. We further call on the government to spare the workers and weak pensioners the agony, mental stress and financial challenge of running up and down indulging in unending verification exercise.
The senior citizens deserve our respect and should be allowed to enjoy their retirement in peace. It is not certain that this government has the welfare of its citizens at heart else it would realize the impact of unpaid wages on the workforce with its implication for Imo’s fragile economy that is driven by public sector financing.
Appropriately payment of salaries and wages should come under the first line charge in government disbursements. We call on the government to restore this else the citizens may be right in their conclusion that the government invented a deliberate policy to undermine its workers for reasons best known to it.