LNP Threatens Strike Action

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After going without pay for nearly three months, some officers of the elite police Emergency Response Unit (ERU) said they were now getting irritated over the manner in which government and the police authorities are treating them.

Although preferring anonymity, the angry officers told this newspaper via mobile phone yesterday that they were planning to stage strike actions that could eventually paralyze normal activities, thereby claiming government’s attention and action.

The aggrieved officers did not clarify whether their hierarchy could consider their threatened strike action as mutiny, the officers said they are concluding all measures to go into action by putting pressure on the government to settle their May and June salary arrears and address issues relating to their welfare.

“Up to today, some of our men are being paid US$30, US$20, while some received nothing at all in their bank accounts. This is disheartening,” the officers complained.

They disclosed that in May, the government made part payment of the United States dollar component of their salary with “peanuts,” while promising that the Liberian dollar portion would be paid to the new accounts the LNP authority “opened” at the various banks. That promise, the officers said, is yet to be fulfilled since the government was indebted to them for the months of May, June and are now in the middle of July.

Still crying out in anger, the officers disclosed that when the wife of US President Barack Obama was visiting Liberia on June 27, police authorities promised to give each of them assigned to the visit US$20 as a package for the “special service” they would render.

According to some of them, since the assignment was executed successfully, the LNP is yet to make good on its promise to some of them. The aggrieved officers cited another issue, which they noted was frustrating.

They also recalled that in the aftermath of the April terrorist attack in the Ivory Coast on hotel resorts at Grand Bassam, the police authorities decided to deploy officers at various hotels in and around Monrovia.

According to the officers, following conclusion with hotel managements, the police authorities were able to deploy troops to seven hotels that agreed to pay fees charged by the security authorities.

The officers narrated that they were among those deployed to provide security services to some of the hotels, but without any benefits, under the pretext that it was part of their duties and responsibilities.

“This is bad and totally unacceptable because we paid transport fares to get to work. We are not taking pay now so how do they expect us to survive?” The ERU officers asked.

As for the salary delay, police spokesman Sam Collins confirmed that indeed the depreciating Liberian dollar (LD) component of the officers’ salaries have not been paid, “because the banks were arranging pieces of paper works with officers concerned.”

Collins declared that the process was on course, while blaming bank authorities for the delay.

He said the banks were in the process of opening the LD accounts for the officers, which Mr. Collins claimed was causing the delay. He did not say whether the information has as of yesterday been communicated to the officers.

Collins disclosed that the LNP is preparing to issue checks to individual officers to settle the LD component of their salaries.

“In June, 30 percent of the USD component was paid and in the soonest possible time, the 70 percent will be settled. We are talking about 5,000 plus police officers, not just a segment,” he said.

Collins did not, however, speak much about LNP being deployed at hotel facilities and if they were promised any financial benefits. He promised to provide details on the matter at a later date.

“There have not been any delays in salary payments to the officers,” Mr. Collins claimed.

He maintained that the government introduced a measure whereby all salaries previously paid in U.S. dollars are now being divided into two currencies; that is, 50 percent will be paid in Liberian dollars, and 50 percent in ‘hard currency.’

He said what has caused the seeming delay in salary disbursements is that, “some of our officers did not have Liberian dollar accounts at the banks, so we have to deposit the 50 percent U.S. dollars into their accounts while we wait for them to open their Liberian dollar accounts in order for us to deposit the balance of their salaries in Liberian dollars. As we speak, we are on the verge of issuing the officers checks in Liberian dollars.” Collins added that by this July, Liberian dollar pay will be settled.

In the aftermath of the departure of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), a recent Daily Observer investigation established that personnel of Liberia National Police, the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN) have not been paid for the past three months.

But AFL sources said following recent Daily Observer publications on the soldiers’ plights, authorities at the Ministry of Finance Development and Planning immediately settled their arrears.

“What we are yet to understand is the way the salary system is being divided in two currencies with the USD component becoming only 30 percent; or else, everything is okay with the soldiers,” the sources declared.

As of yesterday, some LNP officers, among them those assigned with the Police Support Unit (PSU), complained of salary delays, saying that they have been working without pay.

The issue with officers of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), according to a senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, regarding salary disparities and delays at the bureau, “those officers assigned, but not on payroll, are being invited to Monrovia to go through the process of meeting employment requirements with the Civil Service Agency.”

With such news coming from the country’s security sector in the wake of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) drawdown brought to mind reactions that the decision to relinquish security responsibilities after 13 years of peace keeping duty was not so timely.

Those who opposed the drawdown decision believe that until another period, particularly after the 2017 legislative and presidential elections, the mission should remain.

Whatever the case maybe, we look up to the time the security officers will be paid on time to give them the needed boost to protect life and property.

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