Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 May 2022:
On Monday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio was at the Family Kingdom Auditorium, Aberdeen, Freetown, where the Sierra Leone Labour Congress commemorated International Labour Day.
Speaking at the event, President Bio urged workers in Sierra Leone to ensure fairness in the workplace. He said he felt honoured to be part of the celebration, simply because he is also a worker, an employee of the government of Sierra Leone.
“I was employed on the 4th of April 2018 for a period of five years and eligible for another five years to steer the mantle of leadership of this great nation. Sadly, for me as a worker, I don’t have anywhere to complain about salary increment or improved conditions of service and I cannot even go on strike,” he stated.
“On the issue of salaries and wages for workers, it is important to note that since 2018 to date my government has made 30% salary increment for teachers, 50% salary increment for Military, Police, Fire Force and Correctional Services; 50% salary increment for workers at ONS and CISU; 25% salary increment for workers at Audit Service, Anti-Corruption Commission and Statistics Sierra Leone; and 75% salary increment for university lecturers and workers.
“In 2019, my government also increased the minimum wage from Five Hundred Thousand Leones (Le500,000) to Six Hundred Thousand Leones (Le600,000). I know workers always want more salary increments but what we have done so far should give workers hope that this is a government that cares and a government that is fair. Let me also state that preparations for the establishment of a Wages and Compensation Commission are at an advanced stage,” he said.
He also said that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and its social partners have conducted at least two reviews of some of the labour laws of the country; and that two significant legislations have been drafted.
“The Labour Bill, 2022: This will be an Act to consolidate and repeal the Factories Act, 1974; General Law (Business Start-up) (Amendment) Act, 2007; Regulations of Wages and Industrial Relations Act, 1971; Employers and Employed Act Cap 212, 1956; Workman’s Compensation Act Cap 219 and the Trade Union Act 1944.
“Overseas Employment and Migrants Bill, 2022: This will be an Act to provide for the regulations of overseas employment, to provide for the establishment of a safe and fair system of migration, to provide for the protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers and members of their families and to provide for other related matters.”
Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Max Conteh, thanked the President for gracing the occasion and all workers and affiliate unions that are committed to nationbuilding. He said that the conference was intended to solidify their strengths to demand fairness at the places of work, using their collective efforts.
He called on employers to treat their workers fairly in terms of wages, salaries, and other conditions or benefits in return for efficient service delivery and wealth creation, and urged the government to change the country’s labour laws which he said do not meet the current challenges of the labour market.
“Your Excellency, notwithstanding the challenges we face as a nation, the Labour Congress appreciates you and your government for providing the leadership within the context of the New Direction. We commend the government for allowing dialogue with the Sierra Leone Labour Congress to find a lasting solution to the issues around welfare maximisation. May God Bless Sierra Leone,” he concluded.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Alpha Timbo said that the celebration of May Day is an important milestone in the history of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, adding that International Labour Day is celebrated the world over to commemorate the struggles and sacrifices of workers, labourers, and the working class.
He also stated that the President of the nation should address and motivate workers of all classes for their relentless efforts in advancing development of the nation, adding that workers are facing challenges.
He called on employers to work with their employees, so that terms and conditions can be reviewed on a regular basis. “Despite the challenges of the Coronavirus on economies and the recent war between Russia and Ukraine, the New Direction government has increased the number of workers on the wage bill. More teachers, more nurses have been recruited.
“As the Labour Minister, I am proud to say that this government has done a lot in terms of salary increment and other facilities for workers. We will continue to work with other employers for dignified conditions of service for our workers,” Minister Timbo assured.
Since the President is talking about fairness in the workplace its about time that the remuneration of the president and Vice- president be made public in the interest of us the employers.
Top public sector workers are earning salaries and allowances that the Country cannot afford and for doing very little in return to transform the country. The ministry of finance for instance has left public finances in a mess but are still rewarded for failure.
The salaries of teachers, policemen, the military etc is not one that they can entirely live on given the high cost of living and we expect them to perform miracles in the classroom, in law enforcement etc. The gap in pay within the public sector is a disgrace with top earners earning in some cases 30 times the salaries of low paid workers like teachers etc.
Until this injustice is made right please don’t expect our public service delivery to improve. Some of these government offices are so depressing with junior staff engaging in idle gossip or other things that add no value to the work they do.
“I was employed on the 4th of April 2018 for a period of five years and eligible for an other five years, to steer the mantle of leadership of this great nation.Sadly for me as a worker I don’t have any where to complain about salary increment or improved condition of service and can not even go on strike “. Just as well Mr President,because if you were employed and your salary is meant to be reviewed based on performance related services , Mr President your remuneration should be looked at again because your employers , the people of Sierra Leone don’t think you are up to the task of what they were looking for in an employee.More you were hired after presenting a false CV to the Sierra Leonean voting public.Your performance is out of kilter of what you arguably told them you are capable of delivering to them . Four years on , you have fallen far below the standard of what was expected of you .If your statement was meant to be a joke for the comedy circuit, it was by all means a sick joke.None of the members of the Sierra leone labour congress are laughing because the cost of living in Sierra Leone is no longer a laughing matter .By law ,you and members of your government cannot go on strike , so is the poorly paid members of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed forces, and members of the Sierra leone police etc .You don’t hear them complain about it they just get on with the job in hand .Max Conteh the secretary general of the Sierra leone labour congress is by no means Mr Kandeh Yillah the former secretary General of Sierra Leone Labour congress in the 80s ,who in his generation was able to speak truth to power to then President Joseph Saidu Momoh at Wousum Stadium when the APC party held it congress there .Back then, the economic circumstances facing the general population and fuel prices hike were no difference to the experiences of ordinary folks today under Bio’s one directionless government .
Until people like Mr Max Conteh a so-called representative of the interest of ordinary workers are able to look at Bio in the face and tell him how life is for ordinary rank and file workers under his presidency, chances are the struggle for survival for this under paid , under appreciated workers will continue until the government revisit their pay and conditions.With inflation rising , any increase in wages as the president seemed to suggest will be swallowed up by the limited buying power that those top ups were meant to argument .So boasting about increasing poverty wages with out taking into account the rising cost of ordinary household goods might generate one or two headlines for the one directionless government, but the reality of course peoples purchasing power is now completely limited due to the dire economic circumstances facing the country.The question then becomes :Who is fooling who? Or better still is your life better off today than in 2018?
Minimum wage in our country will only be reflected by our Gross Domestic Income (GNI), which according to the World Bank is a strong indicator of the living standard of our citizens. Currently, based on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) our citizens are averaging below $500 which is one of the lowest in the world. As long as goods and services yearly productions continue to be low, minimum wage will continue to be low.
Hopefully, the free quality education which includes civic lessons will help transform the mindsets of our youths within the next 10-15 years which will eventually increase our GNI.
Finally, the work ethics and moral of most our citizens should not only be transformed, but patriotism should be our main focus.