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The Federal Government has approved the sum of N1.3 billiin for death benefits of 497 deceased workers in the federal civil service.

Didi Walson-Jack, the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office (SWO), Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) disclosed this in Abuja on Wednesday at the 2nd Edition of the Permanent Secretary’s Quarterly Forum with Labour Leaders in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

She said that the figure was part of the 563 next-of-kin beneficiaries screened for payment across 116 MDAs in January.

“In order to make payments to deceased next-of-kin, a service-wide verification exercise of backlog of death benefits claims of 563 deceased officers cutting across 116 MDAs was conducted in January 2019.

“To confirm the veracity of the claim requests submitted by the MDAs, after the verification exercise, a total of 497 next-of-kins of deceased officers were cleared for payment of N1.3bn,” she said.

She assured that payment to beneficiaries would commence before the end of April.

She said that the Pension Reform Act, 2014, provided that every employer of labour with not less than five employees must insure them to a minimum of three times of their annual total emoluments.

She noted that the Act had marked the beginning of the Group Life Assurance (GLA) scheme under the OHCSF for federal public servants.

According to her, GLA scheme is the scheme whereby the Federal Government has insured the life of every serving officer and this has been done in line with the Pension Reform Act.

Walson-jack explained that every serving officer who dies has benefits which his or her next of kin could claim.

She said that the aim of the quartely forum with joint leaders in MDAs was to foster industrial peace and harmony in the public service.

She said the forum also exchanged ideas on how to strategise, initiate and address issues bordering on the welfare and conditions of service of public servants.

She said that for improved productivity, attention should be placed on the welfare of civil servants.

Highlight of the forum was the launch of the Service Welfare Newsletter Website and the service Welfare Office Digital Help Desk.

She said that the newsletter would be used as a medium to inform, educate and motivate federal public servants across the MDAs by keeping them abreast of various initiatives of government targeted at improving their welfare and wellbeing.

“It will also provide them opportunity to showcase awardees of the reward and recognition system across the MDAs.

“The newsletter is also expected to provide employees with up to date information of their rights and benefits as well as provide opportunity to celebrate outstanding employees across the MDAs,” she said.

Mr Alfred Abba, the Director, Employee Relations and Welfare, Service Welfare Office, OHCS, said that regular and periodic government-union interaction was a platform for sharing ideas, receiving updates on developments on labour-related matters affecting the MDAs.

He said that the forum was also an avenue to intimate the representatives of public servants on the policies, projects and programmes of the Federal Government especially as it pertains to labour and industrial relations management in the public service.

Abah said that the interaction created the opportunity for appraising and managing industrial relations practices and ensures the need to constantly align the demands and requests of the Public Service Trade Unions.

“This collective responsibility needs continuous consultations among stakeholders to resolve issues and sustain a conducive and convivial industrial relations climate in the Service.

“It is therefore, the strong belief of the OHCSF that union officials in the MDAs have the task of cordially relating with their respective management to negotiate demands on workers’ behalf.

“They should do this with hindsight of the principle of collective bargaining for a peaceful resolution,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme for the forum was ‘Managing the challenges of emerging realities in labour negotiations in the Federal Civil Service’.