With Matthew Denis
Travellers were on Wednesday stranded at the Kwara State Transport Corporation station as there were no vehicles to convey them to their various destination as a result of ongoing industrial action embarked upon by staffers.
Our reporter, who was at the park at about 8am, observed private transporters making brisk business by loading from that spot.
Workers of Harmony Express under the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations and Civil Service were seen in groups discussing the issue.
Also observed were placards with different inscriptions pasted on the perimeter fence such as ‘Stop looting our money, enough is enough, ‘Give us our right, Harmony must go’ and ‘We are not slaves, pay our arrears’ among others.
Speaking to Pilot Business, Chairman of the union, Comrade Issa Umar said the strike became necessary following management failure to meet their demands.
According to him, the management was yet to pay N34 million being balance of outstanding arrears of minimum wage for serving and retired workers from the N86 million initially owed.
He also demanded that the transport corporation should release the sum of N9million arrears of cooperative society deductions, adding that the management was yet to remit employers’ contribution of about N3 million to the National Contributory Pension scheme since about a year ago.
“The whole amount they are owing us is N46 million. We have been fighting for payment of our salary arrears for almost three years now even before Harmony Holdings took over the affairs of the corporation.
“We have gone to the state House of Assembly and Harmony holdings have taken us to court over this issue but the government is yet to clear the arrears. The security agencies in the state are aware of this issue and they have summoned us alongside Harmony holdings but there has been no solution.
“Kwara State government has failed to pay our N34 million. They promised to release our money from the second tranche of Paris club, but they have failed us,” he lamented.
Umar stressed that the workers would not resume until the concerned authorities do the needful.
“We are not going to resume because that is how they have been deceiving us. When we resume they will not fulfill the agreement,” he added.
When contacted, the Managing Director of Harmony Express, Alhaji Salaudeen Alabi referred our reporter to Harmony holdings Limited.
Reacting, the Manager of Corporate affairs, Harmony Holdings, Mr. Kayode Aremu, called on the striking workers to resume work as negotiations is ongoing.
He stressed that the issue of welfare and arrears for the workers dated back to 2011, adding that Harmony Holdings came on board in 2013.
“We have been spending a lot of money transforming the transport company and had meetings with the workers. We bought brand new buses and have paid several debts and invented close to N200million in the corporation.
According to him, “Closing down that place is not the best option as the company is losing a lot in terms of revenue now and they expect payment of monthly salary and welfare package.”
The spokesman called on the workers not to allow anybody to instigate them as the Governor, Dr. Abdulfatah Ahmed is committed to their welfare.
Similarly, the Senior Adviser to Governor Ahmed on Labour Matters, Comrade Bisi Fakayode expressed displeasure over the industrial action by the workers.
He said other agencies like Water Corporation and Kwara Football Academy have the same issue.
“We met with them and confirmed the arrears and put the money at N99 million and the state government wanted to settle the arrears with part of the second Paris club fund but the issue of local government arrears came in and the Governor had to pay more to the LGs and this affected other sectors.
“This thing involve three parastatals, so we cannot settle one and leave the others and the Governor pleaded with them to wait for the next allocation and the other parastatals agreed but unfortunately Harmony Express workers went on strike,” he explained.
The governor’s aide, however, called the workers to resume work as their welfare is one of the priorities for the governor, adding that the state is losing huge revenue from the strike.