Striking Teachers Remain Resolute

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The Monrovia Consolidated School System Teachers Association (MCSSTA) has resolved to continue their ‘strike action’ despite assurances from Defense Minister, J. Brownie Samukai to resolve the impasse.

Minister Samukai has been coordinating the affairs of the state in consultation with the office Vice President, while President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is out of the country.

Despite the effort, the MCSSTA remains committed to holding onto its go-slow strike action.

The secretary-general of the Association, Samuel M. Nyenuh on Wednesday, alleged among other things, that the government has downplayed the plight of teachers, particularly those under the banner of the MCSSTA.

According to him, since their leadership held two separate meetings with authorities of the MCSS, and representatives from the government, no concrete steps have been taken concerning the demands put forth by the aggrieved teachers.

He disclosed that all that was achieved from the meeting with Minister Samukai was an ordinary appeal for teachers to see reason to return to the classrooms, while efforts were being made at the ministries of Education and Finance to address the problem.

The two entities are yet to comment.

However, Mr. Nyenuh said their demands for the retroactive salaries and other benefits were some of the things that are long overdue.
“The administration must adhere to our demands, and we challenge it to make any attempt to bring people from outside to administer the students’ final exams for this semester,” the MCSSTA S/G threatened.

He said their leadership has resolved to receive the payments of their salaries and benefits before they return to the classrooms.
“Teachers' plights have been ignored by the government over the years, and therefore, we will not compromise anything, but to get proper redress before we return to the classrooms.”

The MCSS teachers’ strike action in demand of salary and work benefits began on Monday, June 2, 2014.

According to the teachers, they are taking the action due to the failure of MCSS authorities to adhere to demands they made early this year.

 In a three-count resolution to the MCSS authorities, the teachers want amongst other things, seven months' retroactive salaries for over 80 newly employed teachers.
The teachers were employed and tallied in the 2013/2014 Fiscal Budget. They are reported to have benefited from the February 2014 salary disbursement — seven months after they were included on the payroll.

The MCSS teachers want US$50 transportation allowance for all to enhance “efficiency and effectiveness” on their jobs.
The teachers complained that due to lack of buses to transport them to their respective campuses, they are compelled to board commercial vehicles—a situation which they claimed has contributed to teachers’ late arrival for classes.

The Association’s president, A. Henry G. Woyea, said that on May 26 that they met in a joint session comprising faculty representative council, and executives of the aggrieved teachers on the G.W. Gibson High School campus, where a resolution was passed demanding that if their issues are not addressed by government within three days’ time, they would resort to a ‘nonstop strike action’ across the MCSS.

Mr. Woyea has therefore called on all MCSS employees including janitors and other support staff to lay down their education materials, and stay away from work places until their demands are addressed.

“The issue is very important and we are not going to take it for play. We are professional people who will not allow anyone to just play on us,” Mr. Woyea emphasized.

When contacted, the Superintendent of MCSS, Benjamin Jacobs, confirmed the teachers' claims, but said he has advised them not to carry out any strike action because that was untimely as the school calendar was about to come to an end for the current semester.

Reacting to the three demands, Mr. Jacobs said modalities are being worked out to address the issue of retroactive salaries, but that it was a matter of a few days' time.

Regarding the US$50 transportation allowance, Mr. Jacobs said that was ‘unthinkable.’ He added that in the midst of ‘budget shortfalls and economic hardship’ the government is unable to yield to such a demand.

He said, with only a month to the end of the budget year (2013/2014), he sees it impossible that the system could find about US$600,000 per month as transportation allowance.

He then ruled out any possibility of MCSS providing buses to transport the employees, noting “This is a very huge task.”
He argued that to provide buses for its teachers will even create more delay for them to reach on campuses, citing traffic, maintenance and timely access to the buses by all those entitled.

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