Workers of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) have expressed disappointment over the low budgetary allotment allocated to the system in this fiscal year. Moses Dorbor, president of the union, who spoke to journalists during a press conference, said despite appeals made during the budget hearing, the crafters of the national budget allotted US$750,000 to LBS for the 2017/18 fiscal year for operations and salary issues.
He said the amount represents a significant reduction from previous budget allotments to the LBS, which has failed to address salary adjustments or increments in the past."LBS employees who work for the national broadcaster remain the least paid among government workers and have not had the opportunity of salary increments since 2005/6," he said.
Mr. Dorbor said LBS, a national entity that focuses on propagating government policies and programs, pays its reporters, for example, a monthly salary of L$9,000, "which is unfair," adding that they plan to boycott the elections process.
According to him, the LBS employees have over the years committed their lives to promoting the government and its key actors, but continue to be overlooked in the budget preparation process, something workers see as disappointing. President Dorbor explains that the low budgetary allotment to LBS continues to keep the employees among the lowest income earners in the country as the system's management has said time and again that it cannot increase workers' salaries because of the amount of money given it by the government.
"The LBS workers union expresses grave disappointment over the failure of the honorable National Legislature to raise the budget of the state broadcaster to a considerable level to enable the entity effectively discharge its statutory duties," he added.
This move by the lawmakers, he said, amounts to denying the Liberian people access to adequate information and education, "especially during this critical period in our nation's history where they are about to witness a key transition that has not taken place for about seven decades."
It maybe recalled that during the budget hearings, the leadership of the LBS workforce pleaded with the Legislature to increase the entity's budget to at least US$1.5 million to enable the management to boost its broadcast facilities across the country, as well as increase the wages of workers of the system.
"We believe that our lawmakers who gave us the assurance that no efforts would be spared to address the LBS situation, but instead chose to make a mockery out of the system by just adding US$50,000 to the previous budget, which was also cut down by the crafters of the current national budget," he added.
According to Dorbor, the workers are particularly disappointed with lawmakers from the southeastern region of the country, where LBS is poised to install a new broadcast equipment.
"The question here is that how do lawmakers expect the equipment, when it is installed in the absence of adequate budget? We are saying that it is unbelievable for people who are the direct representatives of the citizens in government to ignore the priority needs of the masses," he added.
He used the medium to inform Liberians that the staff of LBS, especially those on air, are the "longest hour service workers on a daily basis among government employees and subsequently they are the most underpaid in the government."
"Imagine newsroom staff starting their duties at eight in the morning and closing by ten at night only to receive what can be described as peanuts, taking into consideration the current exchange rate. We strongly believe this is unfair to the workers who have committed themselves to providing information and education to the people, which are vital to their everyday lives. We are, however, now convinced that legislators who professed to be direct representatives of the Liberian people in government do not actually represent the interest of the masses," he said.
"Therefore, while it is true that we are not politicians, it is important that we make the Liberian people understand the unfolding development surrounding the funding gap of LBS operations. This budget shortfall will adversely affect elections coverage; meaning plans earmarked by LBS management to provide media coverage of the election activities across the country will not be fully executed. This will deny you, the Liberian people, rights to information and education you will need to make an informed decision on the caliber of leaders you need to elect.
"Finally, we think it is about time that the Public Broadcaster Act before the National Legislature be passed into law so as to give the national broadcaster free hands to work for the Liberian people.
"In the absence of the passage of this Act, LBS will continue to be strangulated and the Liberian people will continue to be denied their rights to access to the state broadcast house in the years to come," he concluded.