MONROVIA – A number of former employees of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation(LIBTELCO) yesterday, Monday, November 21, 2022 besieged the headquarters of the entity to demand prompt payment of what they called their “disengagement benefits” after they were “downsized” in 2006 under the leadership of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and vowed to remain at the premises until the management looks into their grievances.
Speaking to The Analyst through their spokesman, Maxson Zarzar, the workers who said they had worked with LIBTELCO for various length of time lamented their predicament which according to them started when upon the ascendency of Madam Sirleaf the government decided to trim down workforce through the “downsizing” policy.
Zarzar said there was an initial payment to them in various sums in the wake of their disengagement with the promise that subsequent payment will be made which will finally settle the arrears but it was never done. He however said when they took the issue with the government at the time, President Sirleaf told them that she made payment of their outstanding arrears through the national budget and that the money was released to the management of LIBTELCO for onward prompt payment to them.
“After going back and forth with the government , President Sirleaf told us that she made payment of our money through the budget and our whole package was paid to the management of LIBTEL but unfortunately they could not pay us anything.
“We even took the matter to the Capitol Building and we met with Speaker Bhofal Chambers who told us that they can only negotiate for us but cannot force LIBTELCO to pay us the money. I think that was where we knew that the chance of getting our rightful benefits was finished”, Zarzar said.
Zarzar who said he was a technician and had gotten his employment with the institution in 1981 said out of severe hardship being encountered, a lot of their other colleagues had died and they are also being exposed to similar situations if nothing is done to get them paid their benefits.
“We were up to 500 former employees but as I speak to you now, the number has reduced drastically due to the death of some of our friends and others who have fallen ill and are finding it difficult to treat themselves due to no money. Things have been really tough on us.
When asked if they had ever received any payment from the administration of President George Manneh Weah, Zarzar said there was some payment made to them but he did not disclose the amount however they had entered into an agreement with the management of LIBTELCO under the current Managing Director Richmond Tobii for their benefits to be paid through cash and rice. He said unfortunately, the management had reneged on the agreement.
In response to their letter of November 6, 2020, Mr. Tobii, whose letter was dated November 16, 2020 had promised to honor their request under the condition that the Board of Directors will approve it.
“I am pleased to present my warmest professional greetings and herewith acknowledge receipt of your letter dated November 6, 2020 in which you are appealing that fifty percent of the rice benefits be paid to the former employees before Christmas, while the remaining 50% be paid at the end of January, 2021.
“I write to have you informed that management has presented your request and is currently awaiting approval from the Board of Directors.
“Meanwhile, the rice scheme is expected to be at the end of January next year, 2021, before which time we shall revert to you on details about the process”, Tobii’s assurance letter said.
The workers said despite all the assurances from the communications and other follow up, there has been no response from the management, plunging them into untold hardship that is even depriving them of catering to their basic needs and those of their respective families.
“My brother, please help us. We have no hope. We are dying slowly just like our other colleagues who died in suffering and could not get anything from the company that we served so much with passion. It is very very unfortunate”, one of the former staff said in tears.
Meanwhile all efforts to have the side of the story from the management proved abortive as several calls and WhatSapp messages sent to some of the management were not responded to.