By Favour Nnabugwu
The last may not have been heard of the battle between the executive management of the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) and the Commission’s staff under the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Service Employees (AUPCTRE) as the insurance regulator is alleged to have reneged on some of the contending issues agreed upon by both parties.
The Commission and the Union on March 22, 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) appended by the Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Mohammed Kari; Deputy Commissioner for Insurance, Mr George Onekhena; Comrade Benjamin Anthony, AUPCTRE FCT; Comrade Ibrahim Abdulateef, Chairman of AUPCTRE NAICOM, including witnesses from the Federal Ministry of Finance which was a happy ending that may be cut short by recent development.
The contending issues resolved are non-adherence to government circulars, lack of transparency, staff recruitment and confirmation, inadequate working tools, security issues, payment of 87 promotion arrears, conduct of promotion exercise, non release of 2014 promotion letters to two staff, confirmation and promotion of drivers, union-management relationship, medical assistant to staff, staff training and development, three demoted staff, as well as victimisation Clause.
But in less than two weeks after the signed MoU, the staff received a letter from the Commission that it would not be able to pay the promotion arrears of the 87 members of staff, hinging its reason on federal government policy but promised to restore the three demoted staff to their former grades.
NAICOM in a memo dated April 11, 2016, signed by the Director (Administration & Human Resources), Dr Habila Amos entitled, ‘Request for payment of promotion arrears’ said, NAICOM would no longer be possible to pay the arrears.
‘Please we refer to item five in the agreement between the management and your union dated March 22, 2016 and be informed that after thorough review of the matter, management is constrained by the fact that the decision to discontinue the payment was taken by the board based on federal government policy and therefore the arrears cannot be paid.”
The memo further reads, “On the issue of demoted staff, management has approved the restoration of their erstwhile steps on the old grade before their demotion.”
It concludes, “Please ensure that you educate all your members on the true position of the promotion arrears as explained above.”
A breakdown of the 87 staff whose promotion arrears the Commission bungled after it piled them up for three years are 44 staff for 2012 promotion, 9 of them for 2013 and 34 for 2014.
Vanguard learnt that the executive management of the Commission was supposed to have implemented some of the terms in pursuant to the agreed timelines in the MoU. For instance, the staff training plan was to have commenced and Staff promotion arrears paid by Friday 8th April, 2016 even after the Commissioner for Insurance called a staff meeting on April 7, 2016 during which he assured the staff that the arrears would be paid by the agreed date only for the union to receive a circular on April 11, 2016 that the payment would no longer be made.
Vanguard investigations revealed the seeming calmness in NAICOM now may be short lived as restiveness is brewing in the commission which stirred the Union to go to the National Assembly recently, where the union met with the House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters to intimate the committee of the recent development.
In an interview with Vanguard, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), Dr. Joe Abah said there is no excuse for any government body not to pay promotion arrears of its staff for as long as the arrears are genuine.
According to him, “What l know is that government is committed to paying all arrears that are properly accrued but because of funds, payments may be made in phases and in some cases, there may be a need to wait for budgets to be passed before the payments are made. Everybody that is properly due for arrears would be paid arrears.”
In a swift reaction to the decision of the executive management, the Commission’s directors under the umbrella of Top Management Committee (TMC) in a memo dated April 14, 2016 wrote to the union to dissociate themselves from the decision of the executive management.
The memo states, “Concerned have been expressed by all the members of the TMC at the meeting of Tuesday, April 12, 2016 that the decision communicated in the said memo (executive management’s) was never discussed nor approved by the management (Directors).
“The members requested the Director Admin & Human Resources to communicate the position to the executive management for the retraction or appropriate amendment to the memo. It is of concern that the position has remained unchanged.”
It went further, “In view of the general implication of the memo, we the respective members of the TMC are compelled to formally dissociate ourselves from all the decision communicated in the said memo.”
However, the Head, Corporate Affairs NAICOM, Mr Abdulrasaaq Salami in a statement released to the media said that peace has returned to the Commission due to the signed MoU by the union and the executive management
“Normalcy has returned to NAICOM today as workers returned to work following agreement signed between management and the staff union,” he said.
The executive management promised not to victimize any of the staff that partook in the protest in line with Section 9 of the Labour Act 2005 on account of the ongoing dispute.
It will be recalled that the commission’s workers shut down for two days over aggrieved issues which bother on the 14 issues highlighted save for the Ministry of Finance intervention which gave birth to the MoU.