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COVID-19: Buhari rejected sack of workers in public service ― FG

The Federal Government has said that despite the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s economy, President Muhammadu Buhari has resolved that no worker in the public service should be laid-off or owed salaries on the account of the pandemic.

The goverment has also revealed that the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and their affiliates are not members of any recognized Labour Union in the public service.

Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, made the disclosures on Monday at the opening of the Separate and Joint Meetings of the National Public Service Negotiating Councils held in Abuja.

She recalled for instance that a report released in September 2021 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), revealed that about 20 per cent of the full-time workforce in Nigeria lost employment during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“Fortunately, for us in the public sector and in his understanding and continued commitment to the welfare of civil servants and as part of the administration’s response to mitigate the adverse economic effects of COVID-19, it is worth noting that Mr President ensured that no civil servant was owed salaries or laid off,” she said.

Yemi-Esan said the administration in addition, within the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken further proactive steps to ensure that work goes on and the welfare of workers are taken care of.

She noted that the Federal Executive Council during the pandemic approved the Policy on Virtual Engagements, payment of backlog of death benefits, provision of the Year 2020 Group Life Assurance (GLA) Cover for federal government employees and procurement of the year 2021/2022 Cover, among others to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

The Head of Service said there was also ongoing work on the harmonization of salaries in the public service.

She said the theme of the meetings, “Labour/Government Relations in the Post COVID-19 Era” called for deep reflection.

Yemi-Esan added that substantial information in the public domain on COVID-19 and its variants pointed to the fact that human life would not remain the same.

“Of particular concern, is the uncertainty of the balance of economic interest and the harmonious relationship between workers and employers, God forbid, in the event of future disruptions as employers of Labour with capitalist inclination would certainly re-structure in order to remain operational,” she said.

On the purpose of the meeting, Yemi-Esan said the National Public Service Negotiating Councils serve as an interface between Government and the Labour/Trade Unions to examine critical matters bordering on the welfare and conditions of service of workers in the public service, with a view to strengthening the service to be able to function optimally.

She, however, noted that unions like the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and their affiliates were not members of any recognised Labour Union in the Public Service, adding that the government is considering bringing the Health and Education Sectors to constitute two additional Councils, subject to recommendations emerging from the meetings.

She urged stakeholders to continue to embrace the principles of mutual respect at all times and to also embrace the tenets of integrity, merit, performance and transparency in the conduct of government business in consonance with the ethics of the public service and collective bargaining.

The Head of Service further stated that in line with the Presidential directive that public servants would either tender negative test results or present evidence of COVID-19 vaccination to gain access to their offices, her office has directed the setting up of more locations at the Federal Secretariat Complex, Phases I & II, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development where civil servants could be vaccinated.

She, therefore, implored all employees of the government to promptly utilise these opportunities and get vaccinated at any of these outlets.

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