Workers of almost all of Liberia’s Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) have staged a major protest in Monrovia, demanding benefits owed them by the Government of Liberia.
The workers, predominantly healthcare practitioners, gathered at the seat of the Liberian legislature early Thursday morning to inform lawmakers about their over four month’s unpaid benefits.
According to their spokesperson, Alphonso Wieh, remuneration owed the workers include hazard benefits in the amount of US$5,000 each, as well as three months’ salary arrears.
The protesting ETU workers included body baggers, maintenance workers and some members of the burial team from several ETUs run by the Liberian government and its partners in Monrovia.
Some of them shouted, “During the heat of the Ebola, we took risk by bagging thirty to thirty-five bodies a day. Now that we survived the danger, why can’t we get our hazard benefits?”
“We will continue to stage protests to call public attention until our government can address our plight. We worked along with other international colleagues in these various ETUs and all of them have (been paid) risks and other benefits. What is wrong with ours that we can’t get payments and benefits,” Wieh said.
Government has since termed the protest as a “surprise.” Responding to questions about the protest, Deputy Information Minister for Technical Services Robert Kpadeh said: “We find this as news to us and we will verify that information and properly address it. However, government remains committed to ensuring that workers at all levels are paid what is due them, regardless of status.”
Meanwhile, the protest continued into some parts of Monrovia for hours, stalling normal vehicle and human traffic.
Liberia is among three West African nations hardest hit by the Ebola virus. At one point, Liberia was the epi-center of the disease, losing nearly 5000 lives. However, significant progress has been made by government, partners and the citizens in eradicating the virus from Liberia while affected Guinea and Sierra Leone are still struggling to contain the outbreak.
Liberia has gone a little over 21 days without a new case and health experts believe with this path, the nation is gradually moving towards the 42-day mark stipulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be declared Ebola free.