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Speaker snubs aggrieved workers

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By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

The Speaker of the House of Representatives has reportedly snubbed aggrieved staffers protesting for 17 months’ pay arrears. Speaker Bhofal Chambers, who was in his office at the Capitol Building during the time of the protest reportedly refused to meet with the aggrieved staffers; instead, Sinoe County Representative Matthew Zarzar met with the aggrieved staffers.

The recent protest stalled movement of lawmakers, staffers and visitors at the Capitol Building. Speaker Chambers was heard on a local radio station saying, the leadership of the House of Representatives is not indebted to staffers, instead, central administration only.

The workforce of the Liberian Legislature is divided in two sections, central administration staffers hired by the Civil Service Agency while the rest are staffers hired by individual lawmakers to directly work at their will and pressure.

Meaning, after every election year if that lawmaker did not get reelection, those staffers are ultimately dismissed but they are paid by the Liberian government through the leadership either in the Liberian Senate or the House of Representatives.

Speaker Chambers, according to the workers have persistently shown cold shoulders to their quest, arguing that the House of Representatives is not indebted to any personal staffers, something that intensified tension among the workers.However, the leadership of the campus based Students Unification party promised to join the protest in coming days.

Meanwhile, the Press Bureau of the House of Representatives in a press release said after a day-long facts finding meeting of the House Plenary which constituted itself into a committee of whole, on Thursday January 4, 2021 with staff of that august body and stakeholders, it is finally established by the aggrieved staff of the Honorable House of Representatives that the 16% reduction of the Legislative budget from 29.8 Million to 25.7 million under the national harmonization program also affected basic salaries and general allowances of staff of the First Branch of Government.

The facts finding meeting, which brought together executives of the Civil Service Agency, (CSA), Finance Section of the House of Representatives, Central Administration, and leadership of the Personal Staff disclosed through the CSA that the harmonization program affected two separate and distinct budget lines including basic salary and general or special allowance of every government employee which budget lines were synchronized into one currency regime.

According to the CSA, the Harmonization program affected both the Public and Civil Servants across the country with a minimum gradation based on reduction to unify and standardize salary structure for all Public and Civil Servants.

The Deputy Financial Comptroller of the House of Representatives, Emmanuel Zopi, for his part disclosed that out of the 16% reduction made on the Legislature Budget affecting salary and allowance, only 6% reduction was applied to some of the staff who fall within the threshold of US$500.00 or above after the combination of the basic salary and general allowance.

According to him, basic salary was converted at a rate of US$1.00 to LS$208 which was added to the allowance in determinant of the new salary and the gradation for the application of the 6% threshold.
As we embrace a dollarized economy, Mr. Zopi maintained that members of the staff who fall below the threshold of US$500.00 after the combination of their basic salaries and general allowances are left alone to receive the full amount growing out of the combination.

The synchronized budget line of salary is payable in United States Dollars with 20% payable in Liberian Dollars under the harmonization scheme of the national government.

The House plenary day-long facts finding comes in the wake of staff demand for alleged 17 months’ pay cut by members of the House of Representatives, claiming that they were not harmonized by the Civil Service Agency; which claim they could not defend with evidential proof when provided a platform to make their case. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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