Many workers of the Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA) are now worried over the fate of their end of service benefits now that government has decided to privatize the Queen Elizabeth II Harbour (Water Quay).
The executive of the Port Workers’ Union and the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC) are currently engaged in negotiations with the National Privatization Commission (NPC) and the Government of Sierra Leone for service and redundancy benefits for workers that will be affected by the exercise.
In a recent meeting held at the Sierra Leone Labour Congress head office in Freetown on Sunday 13th February 2011, the retrenched workers were advised to exercise restraint and maintain patience until their concerns were addressed by the appropriate authorities.
In that meeting, the SLLC Education Board Chairman, Mr. Jennings A.B Wright, told the desperate workers to remain calm as they have engaged stakeholders in negotiations on their behalf. He said government and the NPC have agreed to give two months’ salaries as redundancy compensation plus other two months’ salaries as end of service benefits to each of the retrenched workers.
“But we have not been able to reach any conclusion because the amounts offered are too frustrating. We are asking the government and NPC to go strictly by the Public Utilities Trade Book to avoid confrontation with the workers because every worker is au fait with the agreements outlined in the book,” he told the redundant workers.
Mr. Wright said he was personally appalled by the twist in the affair of privatizing Ports.
“We are really surprised at this new development because we thought the whole idea behind the process of privatization was to create more jobs at SLPA and improve the standard of the institution to encourage more ships to birch; but to the contrary over eight hundred workers are going to be laid off,” he lamented. He however assured the workers that Labour Congress would not allow anybody or institution to dupe or violate the rights of workers in the country.
This was reiterated by the President of Dock Workers Union, Abdul Kanasieu, who vowed that they would not sit by and allow anybody to bend the truth. He said the retrenched workers have right to their benefits in full according to the terms of reference.
“The term of services for each and everyone is going to be calculated before payment of benefits are made,” he assured. He also advised them to remain patient and not to take the law into their own hands even though the time of payment is overdue.
“I am ready to go to prison on behalf of you but please do not betray the cause with untimely agitation yet,” he emphasized.
Though the meeting ended on a peaceful note, the disgruntled retrenched workers vowed that they would not allow the APC government and NPC to dupe them and that they would soon go on the rampage if they are not paid their benefits according to the period served and the terms of reference.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.