Boniface Okoro, Umuahia
Protesting Workers of Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH) have began an indefinite strike over unpaid six months salaries, last Monday locked the entrance to the hospital and denied patients and some workers on essential duty access to the hospital complex.
Victims of the blockade included the Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr Chucks Kamalu, who was prevented from entering the complex.
The workers were further agitating for payment of at least 12 months pension to be paid to pensioners of the institution who are being owed 27 months pension arrears.
They are also asking that the approved CONHESS salary scale for all staff of the teaching hospitals be paid to all staff both clinical and non-clinical staff and not to selected departments.
According to the aggrieved workers, they also want ABSUTH Co-operative Society deductions which has amounted to over N27 million over two years now to be released to them by government.
They also requested government to fully implement CONMESS salary scale among medical and dental doctors in ABSUTH to ensure harmony in the university.
Secretary, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Allied Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), ABSUTH Chapter, Comrade Samuel Kalu, said it would be total until they receive alerts indicating that their salaries have been credited to their personal bank accounts.
Kalu, while addressing the workers at the main gate of the ABSUTH, Aba campus, said they were tired of government’s unfaithfulness.
“We are not happy because government owes us. If they owe you and tell you the truth, it will be easier to bear but it is hard when they lie to you about the debt. They tell us, they will pay today, they will pay tomorrow, but it is all lies. So what we are doing is what is right in law for us to do to get our salaries. We will occupy here until we get salary payment alert,” Kalu said.
He continued: “Nobody will pass through this gate without wearing black attire. Our children are asking us when are we traveling home for Christmas yet we cannot buy food items for our homes.
“Our homes are breaking because of this suffering. We can’t endure anymore. We want you workers to be peaceful until we get what we want.”
A staff of ABSUTH Works Department, Mr Uchechukwu Uche, said that they have not received salaries since June 2016, adding that their strike was fueled by the fact that Abia government has been lying to them that they will pay but have not been sincere enough to honour their promise since June this year. He said government functionaries have been deceiving them with empty promises.
“Last week some commissioners came here and told us that they were going to pay us two months salaries but the week ended and we did not see anything. Some of our families are in disarray because of financial challenges government’s refusal to pay us has put us in,” Uche said.
The Chairman of ABSUTH Pensioners, Mr Victor Nwogwugwu, said that they have not been paid pension for three years now.
Bearing placards reading: “No ABSUTH Pensioner has received one full month pension since November 2009 when ABSUTH was scheduled,” Nwogwugwu said, adding that they were allegedly deprived of their rights intentionally.
Nwogwugwu said that it was only ABSUTH pensioners in Abia state that have been left out of payment of their pensions since 2009 which had resulted in the death of many of their pensioners.
He also said they were not leave the gate of the hospital until they receive payment alerts like their counterparts still in service.