Abia State Hospital Management Staff Protest Nonpayment of 14-Month Salary Arrears in Umuahia, Block Offices

Abia State Hospital Management Staff Protest Nonpayment of 14-Month Salary Arrears in Umuahia, Block Offices

By Uche Nwosu

Protesting workers of Hospitals Management Board (HMB) Abia State on Monday blocked the entrance of the offices of the HMB building on Aba Road, Umuahia demanding the payment of their 14-month salaries arrears. The protesters carried placards that read, “Pay Us Our 14-Month Salary Arrears, HMB Staff are Dying, All We are Saying Pay Us Our Salaries and 14 Months are not 14 Days”. According to them, they have been denied their salaries since January 2019, stressing that despite promises by the Okezie Ikpeazu government that the salaries would be cleared, nothing has been paid to them. Fielding questions from newsmen, the chairman of the Joint Action Committee of the eight labour unions, Comrade Echeta Chigozie said they would not back down of the protest until their demand is met. The unions that staged the protest include: Nigerian Medical Association, Medical Health Workers Union, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwifery, Amalgamated Union of Public Service and Civil Workers, Technical and Recreation Employees and amongst others. Chigozie revealed that following the agitation in December 2019 by the workers, the state government asked them to forfeit the one year salary arrears in order to give it a breather to start on a fresh payment, pointing out even as the workers conceded to that request, the government only paid them for six months in 2020 and stopped. “In December 2019, they (the government) appealed to us to forfeit the salaries of that year, they assured us that they would begin to pay us fully from this year, 2020, but surprisingly the government failed to pay July and August salaries which amounts to another round of nonpayment of salaries. “The most painful aspect is that before any payment is made, we’ll be subjected to terrible pains that will lead some of us to shed tears. We want them to pay us our salaries because we’re in pains right now”, he said. The chairman explained that the workers had presented their demand to the State House of Assembly, but lamented that the House, despite their pleadings refuse to take action on their request “They keep telling us that there’s no money and that we’re given subventions to run our parastatal, while in actual fact, they’ve stopped the subvention to our parastatals since 2015 “, he opined . He stated that the Hospital Management Board has up to 17 hospitals across the state under it, saying that virtually all the facilities in the hospitals have gone dilapidated despite its mandate of providing essential services. “The sick amongst us including our children can no longer be treated, our children equally cannot feed and whenever schools reopen, they may not be sent to schools”, he lamented. In a swift reaction, the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu said the government at no point agreed with any union to forfeit salary arrears of its members, emphasizing that parastatals in the state are semi autonomous and always receive subventions from government.

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Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000; He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.

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