Liberia: LRA Staff to 'Go Slow' Starting October 21

The revenue generation arm of the government may likely experience an unprecedented collapse if plans by employees of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to stage a go-slow action against the recently introduced "salary harmonization," which they say will badly affect their income, goes into effect.

The LRA, being the tax collector of the government and expected to help raise over US$575 million for the 2019/2020 national budget that was recently passed by the Legislature, may not begin this task actively as employees have already distributed circulars calling for a go-slow action beginning Monday, October 21, 2019.

The entity's vision is to be a professional revenue administrator adhering to international standards as well as to serve as a model for revenue collection and service delivery. The mission is to professionally, fairly, transparently and effectively collect lawful revenues as well as facilitate legitimate trade and social protection for the people of Liberia. But with spiraling in the country's economy, civil servants, including those in the security sector, are resolved to protest in order for their concerns to be addressed.

"Enough is enough, because we have come to realize that the LRA cannot help us out of this crisis in any way or form; so we need to stand together as a family," yesterday's circular quotes the employees.

The LRA employees, in a heavy-hearted and dissatisfied tone, said that the government continues to cut their salaries after the "Harmonization" exercise which, many of them has said, left them far below their previous earnings.

"Some of us were earning, as per our qualifications and positions, over US$1,000 besides the Liberian dollar component of our salary; but after the harmonization, we saw ourselves making US$325 with gross reduction in the Liberian dollar," said an LRA employee.

The circular also quoted the employees as indicating that "because of the quietude of their voices for the sake of having a peaceful environment, coupled with respect for their jobs and positions, the government is taking advantage of the situation to deprive us of our just earnings by cutting our salaries regularly to the extent that we cannot meet the needs of our respective families."

According to the LRA employees, besides the harmonization, the government has planned to cut additional 20% in their salaries, beginning with the first 6% for September pay, which they are yet to receive.

"While we are working hard and striving to collect legitimate taxes for the government, our take-home pay cannot take care of our family or the needs of our children. Also, our purchasing power is reduced regularly by individuals who think that they should have the right to everything, whilst we the true workers are being left with peanuts," the employees said.

The employees added, "Yet other agencies are not being touched; they are enjoying immensely and contributing less to the national budget."

In reference to the expressed emotions, the employees, in their circular, further added: "So, we are asking everyone in the employ of the LRA from the Head Quarters to rural areas, urban areas, Freeport, Liberia Business Registry, and Roberts International Airport to join us on Monday, October 21, 2019, to put all pens, papers, cars and computers down, as we carry on a go-slow, and wait for our concerns to be addressed and met by the rightful authority."

Several calls made to the LRA Management for comments on the pending go-slow were not answered up to press time last night.

A demanding statement from the LRA employees also notes: "We say no to the frequent cut of our salaries; no to the 20% cut in our salaries starting with the first 6% as a test, pay according to our letter given us from the inception of our employment; no to any pay cut, and pay us on time."

Protests and go-slow actions are becoming customary to the George Weah Administration which is at the verge of completing its second year since taking over from Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf through a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in January 2018.

The LRA employees' planned go-slow, if effected, will follow immediately a go-slow action initiated by teachers assigned with the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) that sparked a protest by students on October 14. The student protest turned violent, characterized by beating and tear gas fired by the police on the students who resorted to throwing stones. Several students are reported to have sustained multiple injuries from the Liberia National Police (LNP).

It will also follow decisions by the Faculty Association of the University of Liberia to disengage the classroom and demand that the government settle their salaries as well as repay all percentages being cut from them in the name of "Pro-poor Tax."

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