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Protest awaits Annual Message

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-As Senate staffers threaten aluta

Staffers of the Liberian Senate have threatened massive and uncontrollable demonstrations over unpaid salary arrears, a situation that may likely delay, if not stall, President George Manneh Weah’s 4th Annual Message to the 54th Legislature next week.

The leadership of the Liberian Senate is yet to pay 16 months’ Liberian dollar salary arrears owed staffers, despite repeated assurances.

Both the leadership and the staffers have been in series of rough edges, as the aggrieved staffers continuously argue that the Senate President Pro-Tempore leadership, led by Senator Albert Chie, is indebted to them for 16 months.

On Monday, this week, the aggrieved staffers met with Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, along with some members of the senate, with the staffers insisting their arrears be paid in full before the presentation of the President’s Annual Message.

In response, Pro-Tempore Chie promised to take the staffers before the full plenary of the senate for a discussion, and any decision from said meeting will be proffered to them through their leadership, headed by Charles Browne.

Following an executive session yesterday, the staffers are yet to get a favorable response from either the senate or President Pro-Tempore Chie.

Based on failure of the senate to reach out, the aggrieved staffers have planned today, Wednesday, January 20, to dress up in blue jeans trousers and red T-shirts, while male staffers will attire themselves in black skirts or black trousers with red T-shirts for what they expect to be for a final engagement with the senate.

Mr. Browne, who is the spokesman for the group, said if the senate failed to adhere to their demand, President Weah will not be allowed next Monday to deliver his annual message, which contains his legislative agenda for this New Year.

According to the 1986 Constitution, the President shall deliver an annual message, which shall set the economic agenda of the country for the next 12 months.

During their meeting Tuesday on the grounds of the Capitol Building, the Chaplain General of the Senate, Rev. Michael Holder, provided US$10 to the aggrieved staffers and promised to work closely to ensure their just benefits are given in accordance with the law.

Last August, the Senate leadership set up a committee headed by Grand Gedeh County Senator, Alphonso Gaye, to investigate the matter.

In his report to the plenary, Mr. Gaye said he believes the payroll submitted is a scam.
The ad-hoc committee observed a disparity in the senate staffers’ payroll and salary allotment. It also discovered that, currently, the Senate has more than 800 employees.

Sen. Gaye noted: “We also observed disparity in the payroll where employees of the same status are making more than their colleagues in other departments. The most frustrating thing we saw is that there is an office manager in an office of a senator who makes more than a chief of office staff to a senator and that is something that needs to be reviewed.” Since that report to the senate, the issue of unpaid salaries of staffers still lingers.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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