My administration is committed to creating a friendly and conducive environment for workers and employers with an attractive environment for investment, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma told a mammoth crowd of workers during International Workers Day celebrations on Monday, 1st May 2017, at the forecourt of the Miatta Conference Center, Brookfields in Freetown.
Speaking on the theme of this year's commemoration; "Promoting Employment Rights", President Koroma pointed out that the appropriateness and timeliness of the theme was in sync with government's programmes in having good working conditions and an effective and efficient workforce. He also registered his commitment to strengthen the relationship with the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC) and assured that the challenges raised by the congress will be addressed. President Koroma described his government as a listening one that will ensure that the issues facing workers are given utmost attention.
"We need to have a happy workforce," the president said, and expressed hope that the efforts, energy and efficiency of the Sierra Leonean workforce will significantly help to build the country. He emphasized that government's commitment to promoting and safeguarding the labour force has been captured in the domestication of international labour laws.
President Koroma also urged workers to unionize because unions provide the legitimate platform for their leadership to advocate peacefully for the rights of workers. He disclosed that government has started weeding out officials in the various ministries involved in fraudulent overseas employment. "All of these fraudulent activities take place in these ministries and we need to weed out those officials," he vowed.
The Minister of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) Mr Matthew Teambo said his ministry has made tremendous progress in promoting and safeguarding the country's labour force. He highlighted some of the achievements government has made to protect employment rights, including a labour force survey, National Employment Policy, Migration Policy, reform of the existing labour laws as well as working on a national social health insurance policy that will be of huge benefit to all workers.
Delivering his statement, the Director General of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) Mr Sedu Mans said NASSIT was established to safeguard and protect the interest of workers.
The Acting President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC) Mr Jennings AB Wright described International Workers Day dubbed May Day as a red letter day for all workers in the country. He thanked the government for the transformative strides in infrastructure, energy, health and other sectors, and the establishment of the Legal Aid Board. He called on government to support and strengthen the Labour Ministry and review the Social Security Act. He also expressed concerns of premature retirement of civil servants with the exclusion of the SLLC and the Civil Servants Union, teachers and nurses that are not on payroll, pensions, timely payment of subsidies to primary schools among others.
Awards to deserving individuals and institutions climaxed the colourful ceremony.