Over four hundred workers of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) across the country have grounded tools over what they described as incompetence on the part of the administration.
Alhaji Tejan Abdul Kasim, General Secretary Artisans, Public Works and Services Employees Union, a Trade Union movement representing varying categories (educational, agricultural) of workers in the country said that they have issues with SLARI which caused workers to take strike action since Monday 18th July 2016.
He disclosed that: “The strike is predicated on; unlawful deduction of NASSIT 15% instead of 5% since 2002 by SLARI management; also the deduction of income tax from workers’ salary that is below the threshold since 2002; also the four hundred and eighty thousand Leones salary they have not paid; the drawback they have not paid, leave allowance of thirty percent they have not paid for two years, although we waived three years, also the five hundred thousand Leones minimum pay wage they have not honored.”
Karim alleged that: “They have very incompetent senior management staff at SLARI because, if you have these problems and you have not taken it to the Ministry of Finance; you don’t expect the Finance Ministry to know your problems and claims. I assume that SLARI has not communicated the issue to the Ministry of Finance.
The proof for that is that documents should have been available; but if there are no documents, there is nothing we can say or do about that.”
The Trade Unionist highlighted that last year they issued a strike action notice but they were prevailed upon to suspend the action with an agreement at the Ministry of Labor but the agreement is yet to be adhered to.
“Therefore we have to resume the strike,” Kasim pointed out, adding that it is against this background that the Parliamentary Committee on Labor invited them to a meeting that is to be followed by another joint meeting between them, SLARI, Labor Ministry to see how they can solve a problem that he said is not of their making but that of SLARI.
The focal person for the striking workers noted that they have engaged the senior management of SLARI for over three years; so one can imagine how much these workers have suffered.
When asked what reasons SLARI advanced for the holdup in the settlement of the said issues, Kasim said: “You will have to ask SLARI.”
Alhaji Tejan Abdul Kasim General Secretary of the Trade Union highlighted that their expectation from the Labor Committee is to “have an amicable and immediate solution so that work can resume because this is rainy season and we know what it takes especially when it comes to agriculture and SLARI Workers.
We are hoping that SLARI will look after their responsibility and take necessary action for the settlement of the issues of over four hundred workers across the country.”
Apparently, after series of moves to reach SLARI, head of administration, Admin Officer said he has no authority to speak to journalists on the issue. “Sorry sir, I do not have authority to talk to any journalist.”,The Admin Officer said.