1 May 2014

Liberia: Disagreement Stalls Decent Work Bill

Disagreement amongst lawmakers as to how to proceed with the process leading to the endorsement of the controversial "decent work bill," which has been pending for a protracted period of time, has stall its passage.

At Thursday's Plenary, members of the House of Representatives failed to find a common ground on "who what the minimum wage should be and should set the threshold for Liberian workers."

The Session went in disarray when parliamentarians in equal numbers voted for and against the motion of Reconsideration filed in April by Representative Edwin Snowe of District # 6, Montserrado County.

In his motion, Rep. Snowe considered setting up the formulation of a labor wage board which could have the mandate to set minimum wage for skilled and unskilled Liberians.

He argued that the Committee on Labor be left with the authority to set a minimum wage for the labor force and that lawmakers should not be the ones setting up particular wage for the country's labor sector.

However, litany of lawmakers counter-argued the legislature should be given said authority and that a minimum wage board be setup to monitor labor sector of the country.

Such board, they argued, should also have the powers to increase the wages instead of reducing wages from US$6 for skills laborers and US$4 for unskilled laborers.

Margibi County lawmaker Emmanuel Nuquay said Snowe's argument was in "bad faith and not in the interest of the Liberian people."

On that basis, he argued that such motion should be disregarded by the body.

"The law must be applied without fear or favor and that Representative Snowe's motion was self-centered and has the ability to undermine the effectiveness of the legislature," Rep. Nuquay maintained.

"The Legislature is not ignorant to the plight of the citizenry and we must make prudent decisions that would benefit the nation and its people."

His comments were sustained by lawmakers from Bong, River Gee and Montserrado Counties.

In his representation, Rep. Acarous Gray stressed that that august body which is made of professionals should not allow itself to dance to the rhythm of Snowe's assertion. He cited Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India as countries that have set minimum wage for their workforce, arguing "Liberia is not an exception to said global principle."

However, Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfia filed a motion that to test the strength of Rep. Snowe's position.

The motion was carried and lawmakers voted 16 and 16 for and against the motion.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Barchue who presided over the session was left with the decision to invoke rule 16.2 of plenary standing order which stressed that in the case of tie vote, the presiding should decide the final vote.

At a tie, Deputy Speaker, Hans Barchue, in keeping with the rules governing the House, was left with no alternatives but to break the tie against Representative Edwin Snowe motion, thus making his motion is null and void. Deputy Speaker Barchue said his decision to break the tie was about putting the interest of the Liberian people above self-aggrandizement.

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