Liberia: 'Dismissal Looms' ... As Health Workers Begin Go-Slow

17 September 2020

Less than 24 hours after the national leadership of the health workers announced a nationwide go-slow action in demand of benefits and others, the Liberian Government has threatened to dismiss those who will honor the strike action.

Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told OK Fm Wednesday, September 16, 2020 via mobile phone that any health worker who will stay away from work, his or her name will be removed from the Civil Service payroll.

Minister Nagbe said it is unfortunate that the health workers despite overture made by the government relating to paying their hazard pay would choose to strike at the detriment of innocent lives.

He said during a recent meeting with the leadership and some members of the health workers, President Dr. George Manneh Weah instructed the Minister of Finance to allocate US$2 million for health workers who are not part of the COVID-19 response team.

Nagbe further said, on health workers getting union status, the president told them that the law prohibits public sector employees from unionizing; however, if they want to unionize, they should lobby with the legislature to change the law, something he will endorse.

Unfortunately, he said despite this goodwill gesture by the president, the leadership of the health workers chose to call a strike action.

But he said the Government is under obligation to ensure that health facilities remain functional, therefore, those who will stay away from work, the relevant Civil Service provisions will be used to replace them.

Minister Nagbe said the government will not allow any group of people to blackmail it in the name of benefits.

He claimed that the leadership of the health workers have political interest rather than adhering to their ethics which talks about saving lives.

The Information Minister said this government has been kind to the health workers, saying "we have increased the salaries of doctors and others."

But reacting to the minister's statement, the President of the health workers Joseph Tamba said at no time during the recent meeting that the president instructed the Minister of Finance to allocate US$2 million for their hazard allowance.

He claimed that the meeting was characterized by threats and did not end well.

It can be recalled that the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) through its Assistant Secretary General Deemi T. Dearzrua Tuesday, September 16, 2020 announced an indefinite strike action until the Government implements its demand.

Among the requests include the issuance of certificate of recognition to the union, increment of health workers' salaries in fiscal year 2020/2021, the reclassification of health workers and payment of hazard allowance to all health workers.

In addition, the union is also calling on the government to give COVID-19 benefits for infected health workers and deceased families and the immediate cancellation of a policy on redeployment and transfer of health workers.

It also called for the over 1,000 pensioners over the last six months to be given their just benefits and the gap created on the workflow by their retirement be filled with immediate effect.

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