By Ifeoma Ofurum
Major stakeholders in Imo State, who have been counting their losses following a crippling five-day statewide warning strike which ended at the weekend, have thrown their weight behind the workers in their demand for payment of their outstanding salaries. They feared that if Labour is forced to embark on a full blown strike over what is due to them, the state would suffer untold hardship and have, therefore, urged the government to pay them immediately.
Speaking to Christian voice, a legal practitioner, Barr. Nnamdi Nwachukwu, lamented that the warning strike forced citizens in the state to resort to self-help, adding that with regard to the legal profession, a civil matter that would have been settled in court landed people into a police case.
He pointed out that when the judiciary goes on strike, the court loses its status of being a grievances remedial centre for civil matters, stressing that during the warning strike government lost financially because some payments and affidavits which yield money to the state could not be made.
“We can’t get records or correspondence from the judiciary for reference purposes and court can’t sit while the strike is on, we are crippled,” he said.
Counting their losses also, market women and business men appealed to government to pay the workers so that money can circulate in the state.
One of them who spoke to Christian Voice said she could not feed her family any longer because she had not been able to recover debts owed her by the workers who bought some materials from her.
According to her, the workers had always paid promptly when their salaries were regular.
“Let the governor pay the civil servants so that they can come and buy our goods. As you can see I can’t sell these edible products because nobody has money to buy something from us and since we find it difficult to sell edible things, how much more those selling materials and shoes?”, another market woman said.
The commercial vehicle drivers complained that there were no passengers on the road as a result of the strike.
“Our buses are no longer filled up while some passengers under-price our services, appealing to us to help them because of ‘condition’, we still carry them because there are no passengers on the road. We are all suffering from the hardship,” a bus driver said.
The strike affected the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) which shut its services, denying listeners of valuable information, except the government angle in the strike. Labour leaders were seen during the strike trying to picket the station which, reportedly, owed workers four months salary arrears.
Civil servants had on Friday embarked on the five-day warning strike for non-payment of some months salary by the state government who they also said violated their agreement, slashed their salaries, in addition to owing them promotions, leave and other allowances.
Governor Rochas Okorocha alleged that the strike was politically motivated, but respondents reacted, saying that elections are over, adding that a hungry worker needs no motivation to fight for his legitimate pay. The arrears range from two to eight months among the strata, including health workers, parastatals, and civil servants.
An attempt to break the ranks of Labour was made during the strike when a placard-carrying group showed up in the government house frontage asking the workers to go back to work and honour an agreement with government not to go on strike. But Labour leaders accused the government officials of sponsoring the move.
The workers are expected to resume work fully tomorrow as they look forward to the cooperation of the state government.