Sierra Leone’s Doctors and Nurses End Strike as
President Yield to Pay Demands: Victory for
Abdul R Thomas
Editor – The Sierra Leone Telegraph
29 March 2010
Health workers in Sierra Leone have decided to
end their ten day strike, which was called in
protest at low pay and poor working conditions.
The president has acceded to their demands, in a
late night deal to increase their pay by 500%.
organiser - Dr Freddie Coker told BBC’s Umaru
Fofannah, that doctors would now get a take home
salary of $600 (£402) a month, up from $100
(£67). Health workers will also get a review of
their housing and transportation allowance by
the Health Commission.
The offer was made late last night after
President Koroma had told health workers in a
draconian press statement - to return to work by
Monday or be sacked. The President had told the
Health Coalition last Thursday, that he could
not afford to meet the demands of the strikers.
This u-turn by the government may well spark off
copy cat industrial actions by other public
sector workers, who may similarly feel
disgruntled about their take home pay. But it is
highly unlikely that the government will meet
such demands, as the country is currently facing
one of the worst economic crises since the end
of the ten year war in 2001.
Doctors across the country invariably earn less
than $100 a month, while nurses take home $35.
The doctors had demanded salary increase of
$900, which would have seen their pay rise to $1
000 a month.
In just four weeks, the President will be
launching a nationwide free access to health
care for all pregnant and lactating mothers, the
elderly and children under five – as a prelude
to the country’s celebration of 50 years of
independence in 2011.
The health workers say that this new programme
would lead to a huge increase in their workload.
The British government is paying £34 Million
towards the cost of this programme, and has
released an additional £7 Million to pay for
much needed drugs and medicines. But it would
appear that this budget did not make provision
for a wage bill that would accommodate the
demands of the health workers, nor were they
It is now clear from Gordon Brown’s letter sent to President Koroma
last Friday, that with the continuing support of
the British government, this unfortunate dispute
has been resolved to the satisfaction of all
While the Sierra Leone Telegraph welcome this,
as a fair and just settlement for the hard
working health workers in Sierra Leone and a
victory for common sense, it is noted that this
$600 settlement is the very same offer that the
government had earlier withdrawn, and instead
issued a stern ultimatum to all doctors and
nurses to return to work or face being sacked.
The intervention of the President in this
dispute was a high risk gamble, which had placed
the credibility of the President in jeopardy.
Government sponsored media had earlier reported
of an expected mass sacking on Monday morning as
the President was determined to see through his
threat. He had declared the strike action
Now that the strike has been resolved amicably,
it should be said that the foundation has now
been laid for the effective delivery of the
President’s free health care programme for
pregnant and lactating mothers, and children
under five. Sierra Leone’s dedicated and hard
working health care workers have a key role to
play in the success of this programme.
But with the on-going strategic management
vacuum created after the sacking of the Minister
of health and the marginalisation of the current
deputy minister, doubt remains as to the
credibility and strength of leadership in this
The President must now act decisively to bring
to an end this management crisis that looms at
the health ministry, by appointing a minister in
charge of the country’s health care delivery.
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