An ongoing labour dispute in Radio Bayelsa has resulted in the disruption of operations of the radio station, as two unions at the radio station held a protest blocking the entrance to the station for several hours.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workers had threatened to shut down the station but for the timely intervention of state government officials who engaged union leaders in talks averted a total shutdown.
The station could not broadcast its news and current affairs programme ‘Hot Sea’ as the guest for the programme, Bayelsa Commandant of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency was locked out of the station premises.
NAN learnt that the workers had urged Gov. Seriake Dickson to remove the General Manager of the radio station, Dr John Idumange.
The workers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), and Radio, Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union (RATTAWU), had organised a fasting and prayer session at the station before the protest.
Report says the move by Idumange, who was appointed on Dec. 6, 2016, to re-position the station sparked off disagreement between members of the two unions and management.
Following the disruption of the station’s programme, officials of Bayelsa government led by the Chief of Staff to Bayelsa Governor Mr Talford Ongolo, came to the station to hold meetings with workers’ representatives.
The Commissioner of Information also summoned the General Manager of the Station and union leaders to resolve th dispute.
The workers had expressed dismay that since assumption of office on Dec. 6, Idumange has yet to convene and preside over any management meeting to get proper briefing on issues before taking actions.
In his reaction to the development, Idumange dismissed the allegations, accusing the unions of being used to sabotage his efforts to reposition the station.
The general manager told NAN that the workers were afraid of impending certificate verification insisting that there was no going back on the verification exercise as it was authorised by the supervising ministry.
He said that anyone who did not participate in the exercise would be declared a ghost worker.
“The exercise is not even my brainchild; in fact, my predecessor had compiled a list of over 200 workers for redeployment.
“Those who wish to continue working here should participate or risk losing their jobs,’’ he warned.
The general manager said that the senior officials affected by the ongoing reforms were using the unions to resist the reforms.
Idumange explained that 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 workerforce; employment and job placement have never followed due process.
“To correct those anomalies, we are commencing a certificate and staff verification which will last four days.
“Most of those with fake certificates are afraid and they are creating a semblance of unrest,” he said.
Speaking further, “They wrote to me to stop the exercise, but the Ministry of Information said the exercise must continue. 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.
“These include a situation where a family – father, mother and three children – are working in the station; it is unbelievable, but true”. (NAN)