Liberia: Capitol Staffers Protest

The grounds of the Capitol descended in disarray Tuesday, July 14, 2020 as aggrieved staffers from the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate converged in demand of deductions effected on the Liberian dollar component of their salaries.

They specifically disclosed that since July 2019, no staffer of the Liberian Senate had received Liberian dollar component of his or her salary, something, they termed as unusual and unprecedented.

Spokesperson Charles Brown from the Liberian Senate lamented that it is unlawful for lawmakers to cut their [staffers'] legitimate salary unilaterally, arguing that their earnings should have rather been increased or maintained.

He said staffers of both the House of Representatives and the Senate are giving their bosses three days ultimatum to meet with them relative to restoring their salaries or else, none of the lawmakers would be allowed to work in their offices.

Speaking to this paper following their meeting, which was marred by tense exchanges and bitterness, Brown said the leadership of the Liberian Senate has allegedly reneged in responding to their concerns about salaries.

"Government employees with the Judiciary and Executive branches are receiving their Liberian dollar components, but with us nothing; and our leaders are not telling anything in that regard. We want answer from them or there will be nobody allowed in the premises of the Capitol Building especially, Senate wing of the building," he threatened.

Brown continued that it is very disheartening to see the Chair of the House Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Montserrado County District# 5 Representative Thomas Fallah, an aspirant for the Senate, allowing such inhumane treatment against staffers in Montserrado who supposed to vote for him, including staff in his office, who campaigned vigorously for his election.

Brown who is an Assistant Director at the Liberian Senate Press Bureau noted that it would amount to a curse if any staffers currently enduring salary reduction for eight (8) months by Rep. Fallah would vote him to the Senate in December.

He also disclosed that gasoline allotments for staffers of the House have been abolished, but their colleagues from the Liberian Senate still receive this amenity. He vowed that if advocacy for their just benefits would cause them to lose their jobs, then so be it.

According to him, about 600 staffers are being affected from the alleged salary cuts, lamenting, "If you cannot improve the lives of your staffers, whose lives will you improve?"

He said the posture of the Senate leadership towards staffers especially, central administration is demeaning and embarrassing, revealing that some staffers' homes are in serious trouble because the undue removal of the Liberian dollar salaries has been seen as unfair to their homes.

He narrated that President George Manneh Weah and his administration introduced a salary harmonization policy which saw reduction of government employees' salaries, allowances and other benefits, adding that it was understandable through officials of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning that harmonization was not intended to deny any employee of his or her Liberian dollar salary, but to ensure equal pay for equal work.

Brown, who once contested for the House in 2017, said denying them (staffers) of their Liberian dollar salary component, is something the Senate leadership is in the know.

However, when Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie was contacted via What'sAPP, he referred the New Dawn to the Chairman on Ways, Means, and Finance, Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah. When Senator Saytumah was contacted via mobile phone, his private phone rang endlessly on several occasions without a response.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor& Ethel A. Tweh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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