On Thursday morning, September 26, 2019 aggrieved nurses of the nation’s number one referral hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center again staged a strike action in demand of the payment of what they called their delayed salary, including the controversial salary harmonization exercise.
The professional health workers laid down all of their medical gadgets, stood in front of the JFK main entrance on 21st Street in Sinkor, Monrovia under a heavy down pour of rain with thunder storm, chanted slogans and held placards with several inscriptions calling on national government to pay them.
One of the inscriptions on the on placards read: ‘No Salary, No Work’. According to some of aggrieved nurses, the current situation is alarming and requires urgent attention.
They alleged that due to their decision to abandon job, officials at the JFK have recruited some inexperienced students and untrained individuals to take care of critical patients, something they noted, is dangerous.
The angry nurses feared and described such act as a health gamble to the innocent patients’ lives.
According to sources, as a result of the nurses’ action, senior staff of the hospital are now working overtime from all four levels of the hospital facilities to ensure they help mitigate the overwhelmed situation created by the protesting nurses.
The professional health workers’ decision came less than two days after the Government of Liberia(GoL) announced a payment plan for all aggrieved health workers nationwide.
But it appears that the agitating nurses are impatient on account that are not seeing light to ensure they get their salary on time. Finance Minister Samuel Tweah had earlier assured them that they will receive their salary soon. However, he was quick to point out that it was also a process but will be completed soon.
Unlike politicians, mainly lawmakers who make fabulous salary, which was recently disclosed by Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon in the tune of over US$15,000 and LD29,700 monthly, service providers- health workers-doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, among others usually earn a little that barely can sustain they and their family members.
It can be recalled that on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, Senator Dillon launched a one-man campaign calling for they (lawmakers) to reduce their salaries and share the balance with relevant service providers- health workers, teachers and Security personnel among others.
But his one-man campaign appears like he may be fighting a losing battle against over 102 lawmakers.
Meanwhile , due to the intensity and significance of the role the nurses play in the sector, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, on a local radio station, assured the aggrieved workers that they will begin receiving their salaries soon.
Until that can be actualized, the current situation at the JFK is still unclear up till press time as the nurses remain unbending in their quest to ensure their demands are addressed to the letter.
It can be recalled that in 2014, the Board of Executive Directors for the World Bank appropriated US$2 million for the modernization of the Public Sector; to support the strengthening of the Liberia government's aptitude for public sector management.
The US$2 million International Development Association (IDA) loan was envisioned to conventionalize a see-through, responsible and approachable public sector institution in Liberia that could contribute to financial and social improvement. The ingenuity of the venture was to reinforce the accomplishments that will build up the standards of performance and structures of payroll within ministries and agencies of the Liberian Government. The task was also co-financed by the grants of US5.5 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and additional US$4 million from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The modernization project was moored on pillar four of Liberia's "Agenda for Transformation", with objective of raising the bar for performance standards in the public sector; and to shape a stout and functional system for managing performance and taming reliability in the public service. The project also addressed the human resource allied issues for civil servants, such as remuneration, performance management and professional development and stalwartly supported the establishment of competitive remuneration structure, performance management system across the Liberian civil service.
An apt remuneration framework is enormously the most key strategy of the inclusive Human Resource Strategy which helps to promote competition and realization in both the public and private sectors. Additionally, a framed remuneration strategy keeps wage bill under control and manage employments resourcefully.
The harmonization of remuneration of Liberian Public Civil Servants roots from the past regime; but the strategy was not implemented for some indefinite political reasons. For this government to restore confidence in the public sector, to smoothen the way for international donors to support, to streamline spending and reduce the massive disparities in the public sector pay, to reduce the wage bill, it is just practical to launch a salary harmonization exercise to address the biases and re-establishment of equity in the pay structures which will ultimately lead to salary deductions affecting over 100 spending agencies of government.