Anxiety in Yenagoa as Bayelsa Govt withholds salaries of 222 media workers
Civil servants in Bayelsa have expressed concerns over imminent job losses in the ongoing civil service reforms in spite of assurances from Government that the exercise will boost staff welfare.
The anxiety among workers followed a directive from the Head of Service in Bayelsa, Rev. Thomas Zidafomo to Heads of Ministries Department and Agencies to suspend salaries of staff considered ‘excess’.
Bayelsa Government has commenced plans to downsize its workforce and directed the removal of 222 staff from state radio station and newspaper.
According to a letter dated April 6, 2018, which was signed by Zidafomo, addressed to General Manager of Bayelsa Newspaper Corporation, Publishers of New Waves Newspapers and Radio Bayelsa, 222 workers were listed as ‘excess workers.
It was gathered that a committee set up by Gov Seriake Dickson on staffing and funding of MDAs compiled a list of surplus staff which is being released in batches.
The letter directed the management of the two media establishments to withhold and remit the April salaries of affected workers to a special account in the Office of the Accountant General of the state.
The mood among workers at the Bayelsa State Secretariat on was gloomy and tense as workers discussed the development in small groups.
Although most of the civil servants were reluctant to make comments on the policy for fear of victimisation, some of the affected workers faulted the process adopted by government.
“Reforms are part of organisational objectives and often affect people, some positively and some negatively; new jobs are created, while there may be inevitable job losses.
“What makes this one suspicious is the issue of retrenchment before giving employees the chance to justify their expertise.
“I am a reporter and my name was listed and I was asked to meet a committee to prove my professional competence for redeployment, when my name has been expunged from the payroll, is that not a sack?
“The labour laws gives the employer the right to hire and fire; so if they must fire us, why not do it procedurally, which will take care of end of service benefits rather than this approach?’’ an affected staff said.
Another Civil Servant said the explanation that the exercise was a mere redeployment of staff from areas of surplus to areas of need was necessary for overall efficiency of the service but said that withholding salaries was strange.
“The re-organisation should be in a systematic way in line with civil service rules and redeployment and transfers in cases where the employee needs to move to attract allowances not stopping of salaries,” said a civil servant.
Mr Tari Dounana, Chairman, Bayelsa State Chapter of Trade Union Congress (TUC), said labour Movement in the state was worried about the suspension of workers’ salaries.
“We are following the developments with keen interest on likely impact of the reforms on the workforce; it should be done in line with labour guidelines as redeployment of workers should not involve stopping of payment of salaries.
“We are looking at the issue with a view to making a statement on the exercise,” Dounana said.
Baylesa Government said the ongoing public service reforms in the state were to eliminate endemic employment racketeering and payroll fraud in the public sector.
Deputy Governor, retired Rear Admiral John Jonah, had assured the workers that they would not be thrown into the labour market stressing that the exercise would only affect those involved in employment fraud, redundancy and truancy.
Bayelsa Government had on November 7, 2017 announced that it withheld the October 2017 salary of some 4,202 civil servants suspected to be involved in irregularities. ##