Angry Beach Workers May Resort to Violence

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The decision by the Ministry of Youth & Sports to drastically reduce the work force of the Reclaiming the Beaches and Waterways Project from 1,701 to 850 has angered the workers who are reportedly planning to disrupt normal activities to draw the attention of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to their plight.
Sources close to the workers told the Daily Observer in an interview yesterday that Mr. Lance Gbagonyon, assistant minister for youth development at the MYS old the workers in a meeting with their representatives that “we should stop working until they (MYS) can start recruitment.”
“We refused to accept his decision since already we have held discussions with the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning.
“Finance made us to submit the number of the work force and we were asked to make a break down since the Liberian government has provided US1M for the Project.
“We told the Ministry of Finance that we have 1,580 manual workers who receive US$60 each per month; 109 supervisors receive US$105 each a month while 4 co-monitors receive US$225 each per month and four senior monitors who are paid US$260 each per month,” a representative of the beach worker said.
He added that for eight months, the total amount of US$857,400 would cover “salaries for all the workers.”
He noted that ID services would amount to U$17,001 and U$116,599 would go towards tools and bank service charge that would make up the total amount of U$1M.
“But surprisingly, we were told the project would now be implemented by the MYS who are saying they want to do recruitment and they will only accept 850 manual workers,” he stated.
The beach workers’ representative said some of their leaders have held several meetings with officials at the MYS, including Minister Eugene Nagbe.
In a letter the beach workers addressed to Rep. Edward Forh, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, they appealed to Rep. Forh to intervene so that the MYS would implement the project as directed by President Sirleaf.
“We are peaceful and law abiding citizens,” they told Rep. Forh, and warned that the decision by the MYS to reduce the number of the workers and begin its own recruitment “has the propensity to change all the gains we have made. In our minds, what we submitted to Finance Ministry covered the one million dollars allotted by you people. We do not know on what grounds Youth and Sports Ministry wants to reduce the number of persons to 850.”
Additional information gathered yesterday in the various communities which benefit from the project is that they are angry at the suggestion by the MYS to disrupt the smooth operation of their activities.
“I think the only way President Sirleaf will hasten to do what is best for us and the country is for us to make sure that she gets our attention,” one of the workers said.
In a written response from the MYS issued by Public Relations Officer, N. MaCauley Paykue, the ministry said the following:
“The Ministry of Youth Sports (MYS) has not employed in any way or form Manual Workers on the Beaches and the Waterways Project. Therefore, MYS cannot tell people to stop working or continue working. The Ministry has its own recruitment methodology which is done through a lottery process for manual work. The lottery process is an open process for every participant.
“The current work force which is claimed at 1,701 needs to be verified and the MYS has begun holding stakeholders’ discussions with especially commissioners in the project’s zones to get their opinions on whether the project will do a complete new recruitment or maintain a particular number, which will be in line with the implementation manual.
“MYS has no service contract with anybody or a group of people at the moment, relative to the Beaches and Waterways project.
“When the time comes, the Ministry will, through the mass media, inform the public about the recruitment of beneficiaries for the project.
“The MYS has never informed any representative on the total number of beneficiaries.
“The 1,701 persons in question are not in the employ of the Ministry. However, MYS will put into place a mechanism to allow all youth in and around project communities to benefit.
“MYS has not employed any project beneficiary yet. So how can MYS lay off people? The MYS will provide an enabling environment for past workers and all youth who are interested in the project to take part in a lottery process in keeping with our recruitment procedures.
“Yes, MYS will provide employment and better sanitation opportunities for selected communities.
“MYS will hold consultations with key actors and follow project documents in the implementation of the Project,” the statement reads.
Started by the Liberia Maritime Authority the “Reclaiming Liberia’s Beaches and Waterways” that was meant to provide jobless Liberians in the slum communities empowerment, partnered with Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean the various Monrovia beaches and as a result provide jobs for many in New Kru Town, West Point, ELWA and PHP. It was also the brainchild of President Sirleaf who boasted of her administration providing jobs for nearly 1,900 Liberians in the various slum communities.
However, the project has cited financial difficulties whenever it was time to pay the workers, forcing the Liberia Maritime Authority to withdraw its involvement due to what LiMA officials describe as “continuous embarrassment whenever it came time to pay the workers.”
The Liberian government has now made a budgetary allocation for the project and the Ministry of Youth & Sports will henceforth implement it, according to the government.


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