By Nathan Nwakamma
Yenagoa – The workers of Radio Bayelsa on Sunday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the station General Manager, to speedily resolve the outstanding labour crisis and restore industrial harmony.
The workers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Radio and Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU) gave the ultimatum in a joint communique.
It was issued at the end of joint congress of the unions on the state of affairs at the state government-owned media house.
It was jointly signed by Messrs Tonye Yeimoleigha, the NUJ Chairman, and Pius Otiti, the RATTAWU Chairman, of the Radio Bayelsa chapel.
“We give the new General Manger a seven-day ultimatum to restore organisational peace in the overall interest of the station,” the unions said.
They urged the General Manager, Mr John Idumange, to convene a meeting of members of staff to discuss the pressing challenges facing the corporation.
The unions said that this was to find lasting solutions to all outstanding issues, and for the smooth operations of the agency.
They also decried the proposed certificates verification slated to commence on Jan. 9, describing it as “ ill-timed’’ as a similar exercise was done recently.
“There are crucial challenges requiring urgent attention rather than conducting another verification exercise,’’ they said.
The unions said that the radio station required a strategic direction based on the prioritisation of the needs of the media establishment.
“The certificates verification slated to commence on Jan. 9, should be suspended pending a meeting with members of staff to resolve the contentious issues causing industrial disharmony.
“We are not in any way opposed to certificates verification, but we do believe that due process should be followed and the processes should be discussed with the unions.
“We want the new general manager to address the workers and unfold his plans for the station,’’ they said.
The unions also decried the arrest and detention of three its members by the General Manager at the Ekeki Police station in Yenagoa on Dec.15, 2016.
They said that there were established procedures within the public service to deal with cases of incompetence and misconduct as the sanctions spelt out for such offences were clear.
“The unions are very displeased and unhappy with the resort to using the police to address the matters, instead of using the administrative tools for discipline and sanctions as spelt out by the public service rules.
“Equally worrisome is the resort to using social media to discuss problems facing the station rather than using the established formal channels of communications within the organisation,” the unions said.
In his reaction, the general manager dismissed the allegations, accusing the unions of being used to sabotage the repositioning of the station.
Idumange told NAN that Gov. Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa appointed him to clean up the rots in the station.
He said that the senior officials affected by the ongoing reforms were using the unions to resist the reforms.
The general manager said that the allegation of arrest of three workers made against him was false.
“The affected workers were taken to the police station to make statements as regard the sales of a 350 KVA electricity generating set belonging to the station by the former general manager,’’ he said.
The general manger said that he would go ahead with the proposed certificates verification.
He said the exercise was targeted at ensuring that employees were placed in their fields of study as well as to fish out those with fake certificates.
“There is nothing like industrial disharmony. This small radio station has 346 workers, employment and job placement has never followed due process.
“To correct those anomalies, we are commencing certificate and staff verification on Jan. 9, 2017.
“Most of those with fake certificates are afraid and they are creating a semblance of unrest.
“They wrote to me to stop the exercise, but the Ministry of Information said the exercise must continue.
“Those ghost workers must be fished out and the payroll cleaned up; the wage bill of the station is N35 million monthly and it is not sustainable.
“The unions are being instigated by the Heads of Department affected in the illegal recruitment, and those who came into that place through the back door.
“These include a situation where a family- the father, mother and three children- are working in the station; it is unbelievable, but true,” Idumange said.