Aggrieved Liberian health workers under the banner National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) have petitioned foreign diplomatic missions near Monrovia, requesting their intervention to pressure President George MannehWeah’s government to address NAHWUL’s demands to increase their salaries and recognize them as a union, among others.
During a peaceful protest held Wednesday, 23 September, members of NAHWUL who have already been on strike, petitioned Embassies of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations near Monrovia, pleading with the foreign partners to prevail on the Liberian government to meet their demands.
The health workers are currently on strike, demanding salary increment, reclassification of those who have upgraded their credentials, pay their COVID-19 hazard benefits and to give NAHWUL a certificate of recognition as union, among others. According to the protesting health workers, about a year ago, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the government to end their 2019 go-slow.
The health workers indicate that the government reportedly agreed to increase their salaries and benefits, and to also recognize NAHWUL as a union by giving it certificate, They further claim that the government agreed on their request for reclassification of health workers who have upgraded their professional status, among others.
However the group claims that since 2019, the government is yet to implement any of the demands, thus prompting their go-slow and the subsequent protest staged on Wednesday.
“Now therefore, the Executive Committee of NAHWUL hereby request the United States government, the European Union and the United Nations among others, to kindly prevail on the government of Liberia to deliver on the demands presented to the government,” NAHWUL president Joseph S. Tamba says.
Wednesday’s protest came after the government announced that it has already started replacing the striking health workers with qualified health workers who are in search of jobs. According to the government, despite initial steps to peacefully resolve the situation, the leadership of NAHWUL refuses to compromise during negotiations.
In a statement signed by Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, the government instructed the Ministry of Health to solicit applications from qualified health workers of various grades, including nurses, nurse aides, midwives and technicians to fill the temporary vacancies that have resulted from the strike action.
Nagbe indicated that the government had already allotted an initial US$2 million in hazard benefits, but the striking health workers had refused to return to work.
Nagbe said while the government welcomes dialogue with the health workers, health volunteers have already been recruited and assigned to some public health centers across the country to provide volunteer services. But the health workers say the money is very small to meet the demands of over 16,000 health workers in the country.
According to them, the government’s threats to replace them is only intended to exacerbate the situation, thereby calling on the international community to intervene.
By Bridgett Milton–Edited by Winston W. Parley