Over 1, 701 contract beach workers of the Beaches & Waterways Project initiated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the early part of her administration to get slum community residents out of poverty, have appealed to the government to help them with three-month salary arrears.
The contract workers, who last received their salaries in April, worked the next five months on a voluntary basis without pay. They resumed work in October, working up to December; however, they are yet to be paid.
“The project is presently under the Ministry of Youth & Sports,” said a contract worker yesterday, “but we are yet to see any official from the ministry come to talk issues over with us.”
The Daily Observer learned that through Mr. George A. Young, who represents their interest, they were informed that since the passage of the 2016-17 budget was delayed due to the bickering at the Legislature, there was no money to pay them. The workers performed their duties “for free on a volunteer basis” from May to September.
“We had no choice so we went for it and after five months, which was in September, we began work in October and worked up to December,” another worker said. They complained that although US$1.4m was set aside for the Beaches & Waterways Project, along with the Coastal Defense Project, “We don’t know how much is in it for us.” The Daily Observer gathered that interest in the project has waned because of what seemed to be government’s diminishing interest in it. However, officials at the Ministry of Youth & Sports, who could not speak about their failure to identify with the workers who clean the four
beaches – West Point, New Kru Town, PHP-Sinker Belt and ELWA – said the project is on course, and that they would address the issue at another time.
The Daily Observer learned that the one month salary that was promised to the workers for yesterday Dec. 22, was postponed to today, Friday, Dec. 23.
The Beaches and Waterways Project was initiated by President Sirleaf, through the then Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA), Binyah Kesselly, to reclaim Monrovia’s beaches polluted by human waste.
Residents in the various slum communities expressed satisfaction when the project began and commended President Sirleaf, Commissioner Kesselly and former Project Manager Cecelia Cuffy-Brown for the initiative.
Commissioner Kesselly had described the project as “reclaiming our beaches one community at a time.” But the project has been hurt by the unavailability of money and the workers have on many occasions appealed for their salaries.
President Sirleaf declared that she “wants to make Liberia a maritime nation by keeping our beaches clean, healthy and attractive” through the Beaches & Waterways Project, which has helped beaches to remain healthy and diseases, like malaria, typhoid, have reduced considerably, nurses at the Redemption
Hospital, located New Kru Town, told the Daily Observer.
“Recently the Liberia Football Association held its Beach Football Program at both the West Point Beach and the New Kru Beach because of their healthy nature,” another worker said.