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Street sweepers protest over four-month unpaid N10,000 stipend in Ondo

Scores of street sweepers in Ondo have protested the non-payment of their monthly N10,000 stipend by the waste management company.

The sweepers, mostly women, trooped to the streets on Monday in anger to register their displeasure at the failure to pay their salaries in the face of the harsh economic realities in the country.

Peoples Gazette reported that the women, among whom were widows and the aged, took their protest to the ministry of environment in Alagbaka Akure, chanting solidarity songs to express their grievances.

Clad in their green jackets, the aggrieved sweepers lamented the shabby treatment being meted out to them by the management of ZL Global Alliances Limited, a private company in charge of waste management and recycling in the state.

A leader of the protestors, Oluwaseun Ogunniyi, said the private waste management company had been frustrating the sweepers since 2019 when it took over the management of waste in the state.

Ms Ogunniyi, who revealed that the sweepers were the ones sweeping the main streets, highways, markets, and adjoining roads in the state capital, said they are owed four months’ arrears.

“As a sweeper, I close as late as 5 pm. I use N1000 for transport per day to and from work, and I am a widow. We always complain, but they won’t answer us. The General Manager doesn’t stay in the office but has been asking representatives to speak with us since August.

“As I speak, there is no promotion, and we are now being paid N10,000 from the N20,000 we used to collect under the state government. They just started paying us N15,000. Now, it’s either they return us to where we came from or pay us our salary,” she told The Gazette.

Noting that the sweepers have become frustrated by the non-payment of their salary, another protester, Bimbo Adekunle, disclosed how it was always difficult for her to get to work early enough due to distance.

Ms Adekunle said it was tiring not being paid her N10,000 stipend as a widow struggling to survive in the absence of her husband.

She lamented the danger associated with the sweeping job, especially sweeping the highways where many transporters drive carelessly.

“But since 2019, when ZL Global Alliance has taken over the waste management system in the state, they have not been paying our money very well.

“The General Manager always gives the excuse that the government has not paid her. Our money for last year’s December has not been paid, even for October, July, and November this year, it has not been paid,” Ms Adekunle added.

While noting that the state has been filthy since ZL Global Alliance Limited took over waste management and recycling as a private company, Ms Adekunle pleaded with the stakeholders in the waste management business to urgently intervene in their plight.

“Please, we appeal to ZL, the Chairman of Ondo State Waste Management, and the Commissioner, Chief Imam, and the Oba of Akure to intervene and let them pay us our stipend,” she said.

“Or they should return us under the state so that the state can be the one to pay us. We don’t have any bonus or anything else we’re earning apart from the stipend.”

Reacting, the deputy managing director of the waste management company, Tobi Benjamin, denied the claims of the protesting sweepers.

Mr Benjamin, in a statement issued to The Gazette, said although the company acknowledged the right of the workers to express their grievance, he noted it was important to be honest with their claims.

“While the leaders of the protesters claimed that we owe them four months’ salary, it is not true as the only month we have not been able to pay them is due to some logistic challenges already being fixed, and they are all already told they will get the payment next week. It, therefore, beats our imagination that some people will claim they are being owed four months’ salary.

“Let it be noted that these are workers whose work is based on wages and not salary as they work for a maximum period of 3 hours. We have also been committed to their welfare as against their claims.

“They enjoy free medical care for themselves, their spouses, and a maximum of four children each, as well as other bonuses and benefits,” he said.