20 January 2014

Liberia: Give Us Reforms, Benefits

With a week of work elapsed following its return from months-long "legislative constituency break," the 53rd National Legislature is faced with myriad of problems.

The latest of the problems, besides the condemnation from many quarters over the fast-tracked endorsement by the House of Representatives of Speaker Alex Tyler's US73 million quick-impact district development fund proposal., Legislative staffers are pushing for near-equal reforms and benefits. Our Legislative Reporter Bedeskoe M.N. Tumbay, reports At a last Friday meeting convened by House Speaker Alex Tyler, staffers of the August Body did not eat crab with shame in putting forth far-reaching demands for reforms and other benefits in line with their work titles and assignments. Over the years, staffers at the first branch of government have been complaining of abandonment by the leadership of the August body when it comes to consideration for salary increment and other benefits in the national budget.

The staffers' demands for benefits were contained in an eight-count communication present to the body during the meeting which was held behind closed doors without the presence of media.

In the communication, a copy of which was scooped by this paper, the staffers said the seeming failure of the leadership to provide necessary benefits to staffers who occupy clerical and administrative positions is worrisome and has the potential to undermine their livelihood.

In addition to that, the staffers said the monthly incomes as far salaries and other benefits are concerned are on not on par with those of other branches of government.

During the general staff meeting held in the Joint Chambers of the Legislature, the aggrieved staffers appealed for incremental benefits through the 2009-2013 modernization plan intended for implementation to buttress the body responsibility of representation, lawmaking and oversight.

"Over the past years, the House's leadership has failed to provide benefits including incentives to staffers, who occupy positions such as Chiefs of Staff (COS), Resource Officer (RO), Administrative Assistance (AA), Special Assistant (SA) and Executive Secretary (ES) among others which should be on par with other government agencies," the aggrieved staffers 'statement said.

"There is an compelling need to provide medical insurance to staffers, most of whom continued to experience illnesses on the job and have to seek treatment of their own from the low categories of salaries and allowances disbursed monthly which can hardly sustain them and their families."

"Given the high level of comportment required of staffers, capacity building remains vital to the process which we have failed to receive in the past; we are now strongly proposing that training and scholarships schemes be arranged by the body to improve our performances since there is no upward mobility to allow promotion for very effective and efficient staffers."

The staffers also said the status of employment and term of references has not been defined and that there is no employment procedure in recruiting staffers as it is required administratively for the purpose of good governance. "The staffers have been working in the absence of employment letters as administrative actions are hard to be taken against staffers who may exhibit lackadaisical attitude on job, howbeit its present state is vulnerably insecure," they claimed.

"We are also calling on this body to see reason to provide utility vehicles to staffers who occupied positions such as Chiefs of Staff (COS), Resource Officer (RO), Administrative Assistance (AA), Special Assistant (SA) and Executive Secretary (ES) to ensure their punctuality at work as well as departure since their current plights do not bespeak well of the status of everyone amidst low salaries and other basic incentives, compounded by the lack of operational budget for each office in the Legislature."

They also complained of exclusion from official programs hosted by the Legislature.

"It has become quite demeaning to our integrity to be exempted from official programs such as the one on Monday, January 13, 2014 during the official opening of the 3rdworking session of the body and we are afraid that it is expected to be repeated during the delivery of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf annual message which indeed demonstrates the lack of courtesy and respect for us which of course we strongly detest," the statement added.

In order to inject potency into the performances of staffers, the staffers maintained that increment in salaries and benefits was required and must be void of unnecessary deductions without notice as experienced in July 2013.

They have called for the modernization plan which has been on ice for over two years to take effect as of next month.

Meanwhile, in response to the staffers demands for benefits and other reforms, Speaker Alex Tyler slightly side-tracked the issue and only warned the 300 staffers at the meeting to stop going to work late as it was counter productive.

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