By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a recent development, the Union of Academic Staff Associations (UASA) has issued a stern letter, dated November 18, 2023, to The Chairmen of the Court and Council of Public Tertiary Institutions in Sierra Leone.
Addressed to various key bodies including the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MLESS), Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), Conference of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), and the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Higher Education, the letter highlights critical welfare concerns faced by members of staff within these institutions.
Despite ongoing discussions and promises made by authorities to tackle certain demands regarding promoted staff payments and severance benefits, numerous pressing issues remain unaddressed. The letter underscores the following unmet concerns:
Delayed issuance of appointment letters and salary upgrades for staff in Technical Universities and the Freetown Polytechnic, Lack of immediate and full implementation of the 2022-2024 Conditions of Service, Urgent review required for the status of Research and Teaching Assistants, Overdue payment of allowances to staff members facing hardship at the Milton Technical University, Pushback against the implementation of new promotion criteria until a conducive environment is established, Immediate salary adjustments encompassing a 589 Basie Salary increase, along with 30% Rent Allowance and 15% Medical Allowance, Non-payment of internal allowances to staff members at Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology (EBKUST) and Milton Margai Technical University (MMTU) for the past five months, causing immense distress among colleagues.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of affirmative action on these issues despite engagements, UASA has delivered a resolute ultimatum: a Twenty-One-Day Withholding Services Notice, effective immediately.
It further stated that if those concerns are not addressed within the stipulated period, the Union will proceed with the suspension of its services a day after the expiration of the notice.
Signed by Dr. Brima Gegbe, President of UASA, the letter signals a potentially disruptive course of action should the grievances of academic staff within Public Tertiary institutions continue to go unheeded.