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Liberian: Health Workers Union Claims Concerns Go Beyond Salary Delay

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Monrovia – The leadership of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) has acknowledged the government’s effort to pay salaries of health practitioners but said such move cannot resolve all of the issues confronting them.

“We think it’s a positive step but it does not resolve all of the issues, because the issues about the strike action are not all about salary, there are other issues surrounding the action,” George Poe Williams, secretarty general of NAHWUL, told FrontPage Africa Tuesday via mobile phone.

“Therefore, settling salary arrears does not amount to resolving the issue. How many salary is being settled? The government has promised to pay 80% of health workers’ salaries and that’s not enough.”

Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon disclosed on Monday, September 23 that the government was responding to the concerns of the health worker.  

“All salaries payments for July and August 2019 have been processed and checks transfer to various commercial banks for direct deposit into health workers account,” Fahngon said.

“Additionally, salaries for civil servants are being processed for the month of August – adjustments and corrections and the personal listing of the Ministry of Health have been concluded to reflect the proper positions and pay grades of positions in the ongoing harmonization process.”

He also said the government was calling on all health workers to return to work as it remains engaged with the leadership of the health workers association.

But Williams said issues surrounding the ongoing strike action are not squarely based on salaries and must not be used as a baseline to discontinue their action.

Bulk of the issues bothering health workers, according to Williams, are concerns with the working environment, equipment being used for medical purposes, and adequate need for supplies at various facilities for patients among others.

“So, if you pay us and say we should go to work, how does that settle the issue of patients coming and you telling them to go and buy fuel for generators at the hospital before they can work for them?” he said.

“In the face of the outbreak of Lasser Fever, how does that settle the protection of health workers and even the other patients? So, these are issues we must all speak to as Liberians and see the cause of the health workers as a just one.”

Even though Williams believes there are other critical issues that need attention, he added that NAWHUL is open for dialogue with the government.

He insists that they will continue their protest until a logical conclusion can be reached.

Such dialogue, according to him, must take into account the signing of a formal agreement between the government and aggrieved health workers before they can return to work.

William also disclosed that the union met with the government on Tuesday, September 24.

The NAHWUL secretary general told FPA in a late Tuesday evening phone call that “we are on the table and I think we’ve made some progress, and we are really looking forward”.

“We are moving forward in making sure that we put this thing behind us,” he said adding that the main issues are already on the table.

The discussion continues Wednesday, September 25 and Williams is opting for other pressing issues including the urgent need for all public health facilities to be supplied and and maintained without hindrance.

The NAWHUL Secretary-General stressed the need for government and health workers to have an action plan to resolve the current situation health practitioners faced in Liberia.

Meanwhile, Williams denied that the union ever held a meeting with Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor as being speculated.

According to him, the delegation from NAHWUL opted to hold talks with the VP but they were denied by her protocol officer.

“Our delegation was not given permission to enter the Vice President office, therefore, there was no meeting held with the government on Monday. Nobody has gone there,” he said.

“The Vice President needs to check her office, something happened there that is very terrible, something wrong went on because they said it was a misidentify. If nobody has gone on our behalf, how could they say the issues have been discussed with our leaders, and the issues were resolved.”

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