Workers’ Groups Call for Implementation of Reviewed Minimum Wage

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Kobi Walker

By Amin Kef  Sesay

As the country continues to record increasing cases of coronavirus economic dislocations are taking place with specific categories of workers adversely affected, with some of them having to lose their jobs.

Against this bleak backdrop, Kobi Walker, Chairman of the Sierra Leone Employers Federation and Jennings Wright President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress have been working tirelessly with other relevant stakeholders  to proffer recommendations as to how to cushion the debilitating effects of the spread of the virus and the tool it is having on workers

In a Press Release both organizations stated that as umbrella bodies responsible for the welfare and concerns of employers and workers alike, the Sierra Leone Employer’s Federation and the Sierra Leone Labour Congress have held consultative meetings to ascertain how Government, employers and workers can collaborate in minimizing the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy, employers, workers and the society at large.

The two umbrella bodies therefore stated the following for the immediate consideration and action of Government and all related parties: That Government should set up a National Level Committee comprising private sector representatives along with other key stakeholders such as trade unions, academics, scientists and community groups along with related Ministries to deal with the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also mentioned that Government must encourage the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) locally, ensure the safety and provide incentives for COVID-19 frontline workers.

A recommendation was also made for Mobile Companies to introduce affordable packages to aid communication and reduce physical human interaction in respect of payment of goods and services as well as money transfer.

Another recommendation made was that Government must provide supplementary funds for State Owned Enterprises severely hit by COVID-19 especially in the traveling and tourism sectors.

They stated that the reviewed Minimum Wage of Le600, 000 should be put into effect on 1st July 2020, that employers of struggling businesses may grant temporary leave to workers with an agreed fixed monthly payment until recovery from COVID-19. It was also maintained that Employers should however, in such circumstances pay the Employer as well as Employee NASSIT monthly contributions in full.

“We recommend that Government orders NASSIT and NRA not to impose penalties on defaulters payments and also to waive interest on defaulters during this period,” it continued.

The Sierra Leone Employers’ Federation and Sierra Leone Labour Congress further suggested that Government should engage banks and other financial institutions to suspend the collection of business loans and repayment during this crisis period.

They added how Government must provide tax waiver on custom duties for essential goods, avail foreign currency to facilitate importation of essential goods and services, consider waiving electricity and water charges for consumers for a specified period and discourage face-to-face meetings and replace with video links and teleconferencing.

According to both organizations, the above should be given serious consideration and reviewed regularly to determine expediency. The two bodies ended up by profusely thanking the Government of Sierra Leone for the proactive measures deployed to combat the COVID – 19 virus.

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