By: Stephen Fellejuah
Some retired health workers have demanded for the immediate release of all benefits and other entitlement due them from the Government of Liberia as parting gifts for rendering numerous years of sacrificial services to the people and nation which were all promised and now been denied them by the government.
The retired health workers made their demand known yesterday when they stormed the premises of the Capitol Building to present their petition to the Honorable House of Representatives where they lamented the manner and form they have been treated in the hands of the government for something that should obviously be their legal entitlement after spending so many years of their productive lives to cater to the health needs of the country.
Gathering under the aegis of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia and addressing their plights through a press release under the signatures of David B. Saizay and Joseph S. Tamba, Secretary General and President of the Union, respectively the group categorically frowned on the system put in place by the government to retire health workers at age sixty, saying the process violates the civil servants standing order which requires the government to retire health employee at age 65 with at least six month notice to the would be retiree prior to retirement. Speaking further the President Mr Tamba, who himself is a retired health worker asserted that it is unfortunate to hear from the Executive Branch of Government that they are retiring health workers who have reached age 60 years based on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) instruction backed by the new social security law, even as was observed that they were never informed by the authority.
“Some of us have worked for Government over forty years. For Government to just drop us like that, that is why we have come to our direct representatives, in both Houses to draw their attention to our situation”, Mr. Tamba said , stressing that they do not know if such action is part of the new National Social Security and Welfare Corporation law the government was putting in place.
Categorizing the retired health group who are clamoring for their benefits, Mr Tamba said that of those who were retired in February 2020, about 95% have not received their handshake package, benefits and their pension salary up to present while those who were retired in October 2020, none of them have been called for payment of their pension salary or even called for processing of their documents to commence payment. He said the attendant hardship caused by the non-payment of their benefits and other entitlements made the 1002 members to lose 7 persons while others are currently suffering from various ailments such as stroke, mental problems among others.
The group further argued that the much talked about handshake package to resettle the retirees who have worked tirelessly over the years does not commensurate with the present economic condition in the land, emphasizing that the Government of Liberia should pay the health workers the hazard pay of thirty thousand Liberian Dollars (30,000 LD) across the board as agreed upon without discrimination and disparity.
Though the petition was never presented to the lawmakers at the occasion because those clothed with the authority to normally receive petitions from the public were not around , their petition however recommended as means of moving forward several proposals among which were that the documents for the retirees should be processed without delay, that the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation pays all arrears of the retirees to date, that at least six month notification be given to future retirees and related documents be processed before the time and that the retirement package or handshake should be not less than one thousand United States Dollars ($1,000) for the least tenure person.
Meanwhile the circumstances surrounding the current retirement program of the government have come under heated scrutiny from the public and from within the government circle. Speaking to plenary last week, Senator Milton Teahjay criticized the whole exercise as if the government did not factor into account so many things that comes along retiring people who have spent most of their useful years serving the country and not taking steps to replace them with equally qualified people to maintain or improve upon the work rate of the affected government institutions.
“It is like the government has not been able to put its feet down on this retirement project. You can’t be talking about retiring people and you are not talking about replacing them with equally qualified or those who are better than those who you are retiring. You are not even considering departure benefits for the people who spent so many years serving the country.” Senator Teahjay said.