Seven Staff of Liberian Embassy in Washington Express Disenchantment over Discontinuation of Stipend

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MONROVIA – Several staff at the Liberian Embassy in Washington have expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which their services with the Embassy suddenly put a stop to their salaries/compensations.

These staff, some of whom have been in the employ of the Embassy for about 14 years providing various services were recently informed that the Liberian government could not continue to have them in its employ, especially so, when they were not recruited rightfully.

However, they argued that they were hired or contracted by the authorized appointed representatives of the Liberian Government to provide services to the Embassy of Liberia for compensation.

Speaking to FrontPageAfrica on the issue, Ambassador George Patten said, the services of these employees have not been terminated by the Liberian government.

He said, the government through the Ministry of Finance is working out modalities for the issue of their compensation to be settled.

He clarified that he did not hire these employees in his capacity as Ambassador, rather he met them at the Embassy.

FrontPageAfrica gathered these local staff services were removed from the Embassy’s payroll because the Liberian government has mandated that the revenue generated at the Embassy in Washington must be forwarded to the Liberian government’s consolidated account instead of being used at the discretion of the Ambassador.

FrontPageAfrica gathered that the affected employees who have not been on the Liberian government payroll were being paid from revenue generated through the payment of consulate fees at the Embassy.

“Tuesday, September 7, 2021, will mark 52 days since we got our last paycheck and will also mark the commencement of delinquent letters from landlords and debtors,” they stated in communication addressed to the Ambassador George Patten.

They added, “We stress this milestone to highlight two critical points resulting from this decision. First, a decision is made to terminate salary payments to locally hired staff from consular fees without placing local staff in a legitimate salary payment category violates international law, U.S. Federal law, and Government of Liberia labor law. Secondly, this action to terminate locally hired staff remuneration in violation of existing staff rules, policies and procedures amounts to implicit involuntary termination, which violates international law, U.S. Federal law, and Government of Liberia labor law, gives rise to the right of all locally hires staff to seek legal redress under both U.S. laws and Liberian laws.”

According to the aggrieved workers, they and their families are being adversely affected by the discontinuation of their compensation from the Embassy which is now having a toll on their mortgage contracts and rental agreements and is leading to eviction from homes and failure to make up to utility payments and insurance.

“Throughout each of our individual and collective tenure, we have been continuously compensated with checks issued by the Embassy of Liberia and signed by the Ambassador of Liberia to the United States of America or a lawfully designated interim successor to an Ambassador to the Republic of Liberia,” they insisted.

According to them, they have been trying to find amicable solution to the situation since early August away from the press and the U.S. State Department Grievance Board, among others, however, the Embassy has been unresponsive.

They stated that the U.S. State Department Office of Foreign Missions Accreditation Policy Handbook, August 2,2021, Section 2.2.5 recognizes locally engaged staff who are citizens and permanent residents of the United States and are not in the diplomatic service of the Government of Liberia. Section 5.1 of the Foreign Mission Accreditation Policy Handbook also provides that notwithstanding the immunity the Government of Liberia may enjoy under international, the Government of Liberia cannot hide behind immunity to perpetrate or license misconduct. The Office of Foreign Missions unequivocally states that “if outstanding debts are not settled within a reasonable period, continued reliance on immunity to evade a debt may affect a mission member’s continued acceptable in the United States”.

“The obligation of the Embassy to the locally employed staff is obviously a debt and must be settled within a reasonable time,” they stated in their communication.

They also cited that the United States Congress stated as its declared policy in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the “power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, to correct and as rapidly as practicable to eliminate . . . labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers”.

“Clearly, the Government of Liberia is not immune from exposure to the Federal Courts of the United States with respect to salary debts owed to the Embassy’s locally hired staff,” they stated.

They stated that the Embassy cannot in all honesty suggest that the curtailment of their salary payments has any element of fairness in any respect.

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