Easter without Salary in Sierra Leone
Many Sierra Leoneans did not spend this year’s Easter Holiday happily, especially the teachers who did not receive their salaries before the holidays. The disgruntled teachers and many other workers accused government of spoiling their holiday by failing to pay them, compelling them to spend Easter with empty pockets and no food on their tables.
I have observed that prompt payment of salaries has never been a culture of successive governments of this country, delayed payment of salary has been their culture. Usually, government workers, especially, receive their salaries several days after the end of the month, a situation that is prevalent in even some private institutions which seem to be copying the bad example of government.
During the worst days of ex-president Joseph Saidu Momoh’s misrule, government workers, especially teachers, were going for several months without salaries, leading to frequent sit-down strikes referred to as GOSLOW, meaning, Government of Sierra Leone Owes Workers. Those were the dark days when landlords refused to let their houses to teachers, when teachers were easily identified by their battered shoes and worn out clothes, when teachers were reduced to professional beggars.
So, delayed payment of salaries started long ago and no government has ever tried to solve this problem which keeps embarrassing workers of this republic. The saddest day for many workers in Sierra Leone is the day they receive their salaries as that is the day their creditors storm their offices and after settling their debts, many go home with almost empty pockets and are coerced to go into another round of debts. Many workers are caught up in this vicious cycle which continues to stifle their development.
But what is responsible for the usual delay of salary payment? Is it due to lack of funds or because of laziness on the part of those who prepare the necessary documentation? Whatever the answer may be, government must try tooth and nail to address this problem which many countries have surmounted long ago. It is only in notoriously underdeveloped countries like Sierra Leone where workers do not receive their salaries at the end of the month and have to wait till it pleases their employers to pay them. Such practice is not only outdated but also tantamount to violation of the workers’ rights.
If President Koroma’s much advertised Agenda for Prosperity is to be achieved, there is need for government to ensure that workers are paid promptly as this will help workers to plan their salaries well, thereby enhancing their prosperity. Delayed payment of salaries bears the potential to keep workers in permanent retrogression.
By Joseph Milton Lebbie
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