MONROVIA, Montserrado – Despite efforts by the government to call off a strike by health workers across the country, the National Health Workers Union of Liberia says discussions are still ongoing.
The union had demanded that the budget to the health sector be increased to provide adequate drugs and supplies. The union also called for an increase in health workers salaries and complete payment of all salaries owed by the government. Moreover, the union called for the government to pay the salaries, incentives, and all other benefits owed to the group’s president, Joseph S. Tamba, and George Poe Williams. Both leaders were dismissed by Walter T. Gwenigale, the former Health Minister on the orders of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for gross insubordination to their superiors.
The strike entered the second day on Tuesday and many public health facilities were again deserted.
In an attempt to have the strike called off, the deputy minister for press and public affairs, Eugene Fahngon, issued a press statement saying the government had responded to the concerns of the health workers.
“All salaries payment for the July and August 2019 have been processed and checks transferred to various commercial banks for direct deposit into health workers accounts,” the statement said.
Fahngon explained that adjustment and correction in the personnel listing of the Health Ministry has been concluded to reflect the proper position and pay grades of health workers under the ongoing harmonization process.
“The government wishes to advise and encourage all health workers to return to work as it remains engaged with the leader of the health workers association,” he wrote.
But when contacted by phone, the union’s secretary-general, George Poe Williams, told The Bush Chicken that the union was monitoring the situation.
“Talks between the government and health workers leadership to called off the strike action are still ongoing,” Williams said.
He said discussions from Tuesday’s meeting with government officials will be evaluated and “a Memorandum of Understanding will be drafted and viewed by the union’s leadership on Wednesday, September 24 before signing.”
“The talks are ongoing and leading somewhere, but let us wait and see what happens on Wednesday, September 25,” he said.
Government officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting with health workers were Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, Senator Peter Coleman of Grand Kru, and the Deputy Health Minister Norwu Howard.
Williams said the union hopes to come to an agreement with the government by 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Featured photo by Moses Bailey