Posted by News Express | 22 February 2017 | 2,301 times
•Embattled Radio Bayelsa GM, John Idumange.
The Radio Bayelsa chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Radio Television and Theatre Arts Workers Unions (RATTAWU) on Wednesday shut the radio station over lingering labour dispute.
Shortly after the station went off air, the management mobilised armed security men and few employees who rebuffed the strike to reopen the station playing music all through.
The station’s scheduled programmes and news bulletin could not be aired.
It was gathered that workers in the radio station withdrew their services following the reported arrest of the Accountant of the station by policemen from the Ekeki Division of the Police and subsequent whipping of staff including union officials by youths loyal to the general manager..
The labour unions who said they were protesting incessant arrest of its members accused the General Manager of the station, Mr John Idumange, of double standards.
They maintained that there were procedures within the civil service to discipline and deal with offences adding that resorting to police arrest of staff was detrimental to staff morale and wellbeing.
In a statement, signed by Tonye Yemoleigha and Pius Otiti, Chairmen of NUJ and RATTAWU respectively, the unions urged Idumange to immediately withdraw the employment letters recently issued to some persons in the station.
They said that there was no justification for employment when the General Manager who was appointed on December 6, 2016 had lamented that the station was over staffed and subsequently redeployed competent staff from the FM station.
According to them, Idumange cannot be employing anyone after he recently orchestrated the redeployment of some of the finest hands in the broadcast outfit claiming the organization is overstaffed.
They noted that despite the availability of funds the 350KVA generator acquired for smooth operations has remained unserviceable since December 2016.
“Another worrisome dimension to us as unions is the redeployment of eight out of ten plant engineers from the station to other parastatals, leaving only two to man the plant.
“This means they will not run shift nor observe off days in an environment where radiation is very high practically ‘killing’ workers daily.
“Idumange is grounding the place and not repositioning it because he does not understand how the media industry operates and lacks requisite managerial competence and dexterity to head a civil service organisation,” the unions stated.
The unions, the statement further said are not opposed to staff redeployment, but insisted that the unions should also be part of the process to ensure that the best of hands were not sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, sentiment or witch-hunt.
They added: “We are also aware of the alleged over N5 million naira payroll fraud which Idumange claims to have uncovered and has referred to the Police for investigation.
“Ordinarily, in line with established procedures, an Investigative Panel should have been instituted to look into the matter and come up with a report with which management would act as appropriate.
“All these are expressly spelt out in the Public Service Rules; however, we are requesting for a copy of the police report on this after their investigation.
“We have asked management to properly discipline everyone involved in an established case of running salary of a staff who resigned with effect from August 2016,” the joint statement said.
The unions said that they worried that a staff who was offered an appointment by the State Board of Internal Revenue and released on May 17, 2016 is being made head of a department and receiving double salary.
“We are calling on the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to, as part of its oversight function, invite both Idumange and the Unions’ leaderships with a view to looking into the issues.”
Reacting to the development, Idumange dismissed the allegations levelled against him, saying that the unions were being used to sabotage his efforts at repositioning the station which was in a deplorable state before his appointment.
He noted that there was no going back on his reform efforts as they received the blessings of the supervising Bayelsa Ministry of Information.
“This small radio station has 346 workers; employment and job placement have never followed due process, we are currently reorganising the place and they are resisting our efforts.
“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 and my predecessor incurred a debt of N40 million.
“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,” he said.