Liberia: 11,000 Health Workers to Protest for Increment in Salary Amid ‘High Cost of Living’

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Monrovia –The Executive Committee of the National Health Workers’ Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) has rubbished claims that the union has reached an agreement with the government to cancel its planned strike action in demand of payment and increment of salaries.

According to NAHWUL, the assertions by Sober George, a communication Consultant at the Ministry of Health is a ‘gross disrespect’ to the leadership of the union and inflamed the insensitivity to the plights of the health workers.

In a statement issued on Saturday, September 21 through its Secretary-General, George Poe Williams, NAHWUL said “while it is true that the government has made some efforts to hold a meeting with the union’s leadership, at no point in time was any memorandum of understanding reached or signed to call off the strike.” 

In the meeting, the union noted the “government presented what they have done, what they are doing , and going forward what they will be doing concerning the harmonization plan and keeping the payroll up running and appealed that the union would call off the pending strike action.”

The meeting, the group said ended with the understanding that the Union’s leadership should return to its members with the government’s position and go back to the negotiating table with the final stance. 

The group added that it was unfortunate that while negotiations are still being held, Mr. George will prematurely issue a statement that is “totally untrue, malicious, and intended to mislead the public.”

Meanwhile, the union has given an ultimatum to Mr. George to provide proof of his claims or issue a statement of apology through the local media and warned if he fails, the strike will go on as planned.

Excerpt of the statement issued by NAHWUL’s Secretary-General: “By mandate of the National Executive Committee, having perused the government’s promised without meeting a single demand, have rendered their efforts not good enough to call off the action. I do hereby announce that Mr. Sorber George has up to midnight, Sunday, September 22, 2019 to present the MOU signed between the Government of Liberia and NAHWUL, otherwise, the strike action remains in full; starting at 0:00 hour Monday, September 23, 2019 until the union demands are met. 

NAHWUL, on 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 0:00 hour of Monday, September 23, 2019.

Chief among the recommendations include 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 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 Ellen Johnson 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.

During the press conference, NAHWUL Secretary-General George Poe Williams stated all effort to sit with the government to dialogue failed. An appealed to the Ministry of Education to extend the deadline for school registration to enable health workers to register their children when the government pays them was also ignored.

Despite the oath to save lives, Williams lamented that health workers could no longer stay and be committed to their job in the midst of acute economic hardship and unfavorable working environment.

“We took oath, but we didn’t take it for our children to die from starvation. The oath we took did not say our children should not go to good schools or have any education. We took oath but work we do is also what we get our living from,” he noted.

“In as much as we took oath to save lives, this what we do to get daily bread for our families. If we are not able to feed our children, and we advise people how to feed their children and their children are thriving well and ours are getting sick in our hands, how do we feel? Our children are not in school now, and we have nowhere to get money from.”

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