After receiving numerous endorsements in Monrovia and other parts of Montserrado County over the past few weeks, the senatorial candidate for the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Representative Thomas P. Fallah, was unable to get similar preferment at the Capitol Building where he has worked for about 15 years and could be considered a “home soil” for him.
An endorsement program that was reportedly planned for Thursday, September 3, 2020, by some youth believed to be members of the CDC, was resisted by the majority members of the group who continue to blame the CDC lawmaker and his colleague, Nimba County Representative Jeremiah Koung, for the current financial woes that they (the legislative staffers) are enduring. The Montserrado and Nimba Counties’ representatives both serve as Chairman and Co-Chairman on the House’s Ways, Means, and Finance Committee. Interestingly, both are seeking to upgrade their status in the upcoming senatorial special election, scheduled for December 8.
News of the purported endorsement circulated on the grounds of the Capitol—a situation that prompted many of the staffers to gather in an effort to resist the move. The grounds later became a scene of drama when the young people, believed to be supporters of Rep. Fallah, began gathering but were forcefully thrown out of the grounds of the Capitol Building by the aggrieved workers, led by their spokesman Charles Brown.
Upon throwing the Lawmaker’s supporters out, the angry workers began chanting, “Thomas Fallah, rogue, rogue! Thomas Fallah rogue, rogue.”
“Those CDC boys had come to endorse the Senatorial bid of Rep. Fallah on this ground, but they met real resistance from us,” Brown said.
Our Correspondent said the workers were heard calling Rep. Thomas Fallah a ‘criminal’ who has stolen the Liberian dollars component of their salary.
When the Montserrado District #5 lawmaker was contacted yesterday evening, he did not answer the call made on his Lone Star number ending in 22. In a text message, the Daily Observer said: “Good evening Hon. Fallah. This is the Daily Observer. Called to hear from you what you have to say about accusations staffers at the House are levying against you that you sliced the Liberian dollar component of their salaries. This caused them to go against your endorsement program at the Capitol today. Can you please get to us quickly as we prepare to go to press?” None of the efforts applied was responded to.
Aggrieved employees of the Legislature, including personal staff of lawmakers and central administration staff, have accused the Legislature of unlawfully slashing their salaries and benefits.
The legislative staffers who are operating under the banner, ‘Concerned Staffers of the National Legislature’, have been threatening to bring the Capitol to a standstill if the leaderships of both Houses do not restore the benefits that were taken from them since the government’s salary harmonization exercise began.
Speaking at a press conference on the grounds of the Capitol earlier, the head of the group, Charles Brown, said the leadership of the Legislature must ensure that the benefits of Legislature staffers are restored with immediate effect.
He added that, for too long, staffers of the Legislature have been subjected to inhumane treatment and, as such, it is only important that their leadership rethinks to come to the aid of the staffers.
He said during the period of the recast budget, the salaries and benefits of staffers at the Liberian Legislature were drastically sliced, an action he described as ‘insensitive’.
Mr. Brown threatened to barricade the entire premises of the Capitol to prevent lawmakers from entering to have regular sessions.
But the staffers’ sliced salaries and benefits are yet to be restored, despite numerous complaints.
It was against this backdrop, Brown said, they decided to resist Rep. Fallah’s endorsement ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday for what they claim as his insensitivity to their plight.
“We asked them out of here because we think endorsing Thomas Fallah on the grounds of the Capitol Building is like endorsing Satan in a Church,” Brown said.
He indicated that the Lawmakers’ actions against them are grave, adding, “When we endorse him, we have no argument. It means that we are telling the world that we are satisfied with the treatment.”
“This is being done by a few men who have decided to sell their integrity for little or nothing, and we won’t accept that to happen here. They want to force the endorsement of Fallah on the grounds here. We saw a few CDcians, purporting to be staffers, to stage the ceremony.
“We are clear and we want to send this caveat again that we will not accept any endorsement here until the Liberian Dollar components of our salaries are restored by Fallah and his accomplices, Koung and Saytumah. We expect those monies to be paid retroactively,” he stressed.
Brown accused Representative Fallah, of leading the neglect against the staffers — adding that Fallah, as the Chairman of the House’s Ways, Means and Finance Committee, should focus more on the welfare of legislative staffers if the sanctity of the Legislature is to be kept.
However, staffers on Tuesday met with the Ways, Means, and Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, as well as the House’s Comptroller, to state reasons why their salaries are being cut despite being exempted from the harmonization process.
The meeting, which took place in the joint chamber of the Legislature, ended in deadlock after the aggrieved workers and the Finance Committee failed to reach a truce.
During the meeting, Rep. Koung explained that the salaries of staff earning above US$500 were cut by six percent owing to the Government’s salary harmonization program.
But responding to Rep. Koung, Staffers’ representative, Benjamin Myers, said the harmonization act, as passed by the Legislature and approved by the President in 2019, did not cover the staff of the Legislature.
Myers said the act only called for salary reduction of employees within the Executive Branch, including teachers, medical personnel and security personnel by six percent, while members of the Legislature would have had a 31 percent reduction.
He said the exercise only covered the lawmakers including the Representatives and Senators, excluding the staff.
Rebuking the lawmaker further, he said: “You were not sincere to us. You unlawfully cut our salaries. And to add insult to injury, you cut the gasoline and you said you waived it to COVID-19 fight with no respect for the legitimate owners.”
“Our gasoline has been slashed by 50 percent. The confirmation of this says to us that there is a foul play. And we are dissatisfied, we are aggrieved and angry.”
The misunderstanding led to a commotion and the employees began to chant “We want our money.”
Some of Rep. Fallah’s petitioners, who refused to grant an interview to the press, were overheard saying that they will return anytime soon to carry out the ceremony, but the workers promised them that they, too, will remain posted and await their return.