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“Harmonization” Is A National Security Threat, Take A Hint from Health Workers’ Strike

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PERHAPS THE LIBERIAN Government’s technocrats, who came up with the so-called harmonization idea and pushed for its implementation didn’t think twice or thrice about the serious ramifications that would have been the aftermaths.

PAYROLL HARMONIZATION can be a fundamental strength to business dexterity and can also be an exciting time for businesses, but managing the human resource challenges that arise with it can become central to the organization’s success or failure like it is now happening in Liberia. Many organizations find themselves in a situation where a lack of standardized and integrated human resource and payroll have become a business-critical problem affecting their daily operations. 

THIS HAS BEEN TRUE for the Liberian Government as it has had to deal with this problem of lack of a standardized salary system and previous regimes have done little to adequately fix and standardize it. 

THIS SITUATION DOGGED former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime for the straight 12 years she stayed in power. While she tried to fix it, yet the gap widened more in the pay structures under her watch. She introduced what her administration termed as “Right size and Downsize.” Through this Madam Sirleaf’s policy, many civil servants were “downsized” and or “right-sized” from their jobs. However, they were paid off and most of them who were still “young” went off to get other jobs in other sectors. Nevertheless, the problem wasn’t fixed for good.  

UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE Manneh Weah, his administration is somewhat attempting to fix the problem by even more creating more trouble for itself and succeeding regimes. 

HOWEVER, TRYING to fix this lack of standardized payment system in government has to be done genuinely void of all political influences that usually target one or some groups of people while others are left to unjustifiably benefit from the power of the day.     

WHAT IS EVEN More troubling about this policy of harmonization or salary cut/reduction that the Weah-led regime introduced, is that while the Legislature debates on such very important ‘life and death’ situation, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) under the leadership of Mr. Samuel D. Tweah has gone ahead and become implementing this Mephistophelian policy that only seeks to heap more miseries on civil servants, who already make very little.

SO FAR, THE KNOWN effect of this so-called harmonization has not been positive from the very get go even before the Finance Ministry began to implement it totally outside the law. 

EVERYWHERE, there are cries of what the harmonization has done to people’s incomes and its effect on their families and other social activities.  

THIS WAS CLEARLY SEEN on Monday, September 23, when one very important sector in the nation’s survival when on strike because their meager salaries have disproportionately been slashed in the name of salary harmonization.

THE HEALTH WORKERS’ strike, which was being announced for weeks, seriously affected ordinary Liberians, including pregnant mothers and senior citizens who had gone to seek medical treatments at various health facilities across the country but couldn’t get the medical personnel’s attentions.

THE NATIONAL HEALTH Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL), the umbrella organization of all health workers’ smaller organizations, on Wednesday, September 18, threatened to stay away from work if the Government of Liberia does not pay salaries owed health workers for the months of July and August 2019.

During a press conference, the group through its Secretary-General, George Poe Williams outlined series of recommendations it said when not met, 11,000 members of the union across the country will lay down their tools beginning 00:00 hour of Monday, September 23, 2019.

CHIEF AMONG the recommendations includes the increment of budgetary allotment for the health sector to provide adequate medical and laboratory supplies plus other logistics for health facilities across the country and increment of health workers’ salaries across the country.

THE GROUP ALSO CALLED on the government to make a complete payment of all health workers’ salaries up to date. In addition, it is requesting the government to pay the salaries, incentive and all benefits of NAHWUL’s president Joseph S. Tamba and Secretary-General George Poe Williams. The two men were ‘wrongfully’ dismissed during the administration of ex-President Sirleaf for their staunch advocacies on behalf of health workers.

FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS from the Liberian Senate and pressure from international partners, the two officials were reappointed by this current administration. However, they were not given their pay and benefits for the time they were out of job.

LATE MONDAY evening, the government sent out a very weak and lazy press release trying to appease the health workers. 

IN ITS APPEASEMENT, the government said, “All salary payments for July and August 2019 have been processed and checks transferred to various commercial banks for direct deposit into health workers’ accounts.

“ADJUSTMENT AND correction in the personnel listing of the Ministry of Health has been concluded to reflect the proper positions and paygrades of health workers are under the on-going harmonization process.”

SHOULD THE HEALTH workers have to go on strike before you can pretend to do what you should have done long before the Monday strike? 

Now the health workers have said that they are going to stay on their strike action as long as the government stays insensitive to their plight.

WHAT HAPPENS IF teachers and other civil servants join health workers’ protest action against this government? It is going to be a total collapse of the entire system and might lead to the unthinkable all because of the bad policy of HARMONIZATION.     

THIS SO-CALLED harmonization if not taken into serious considerations by the major stakeholders, including the legislators and the President, could have a very negative impact not only on the nation’s fragile health sector but other sectors like education, as well and the ramification could spell doom for President Weah and his regime. This can be totally avoided, depending.

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