Mass Dismissal Threat Scares Lawmakers

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The Civil Service Agency’s proposal to “downsize” or reduce government’s workforce in the wake of the Ebola crisis has sparked public concern, drawing comments from stakeholders including the 53rd Legislature.

CSA Director General George Werner last week announced a proposal by his entity to lay off thousands of government workers considered as “non-essential staffs.  He told the Senate that the current government wage bill is too high, noting that “some of the consequences of this (oversize civil service) are disastrous and deadly.”

Capitol Hill feels threatened by that proposal, compelling the House of Representatives plenary to summon Labour Minister Neto Leigh and CSA boss George Werner to provide details of the proposed retrenchment. 

Due to the Ebola outbreak most non-essential civil servants were placed on compulsory leave purportedly to decongest government offices and thereby prevent the spread of the virus.
The House’s decision was prompted by a letter addressed to plenary by Maryland County Representative Dr. Bhofal Chambers requesting an urgent probe into the situation.
According to Dr. Chambers, the plan to lay off workers in the wake of the nation’s health crisis is unwarranted, warning that; “such action would trigger harsh or adverse public reactions.”

Dr. Chambers said that "a lot of our people are traumatized, and it is incumbent upon us, as their representatives, who, based upon constant contacts with them, know their plight and should avoid acts that might inflame the existing volatile or gaseous situation.

“Our focus now should be tackling poverty and promoting social justice. Thus, redundancies, retrenchments, downsizings or dismissals are neither timely nor prudent,”Dr. Chambers advised.

Director Werner has argued that “maintaining a very large public sector with low wages for public servants institutionalizes poverty, subservience, and patronage politics and promotes begging as a profession.”

But River Cess County Representative Francis Paye countered that the proposed downsizing creates unemployment and puts citizens against their direct representatives relative to their survival.

Justifying his proposal, Werner pointed out: “We understand and know that we need an optimal size (of workforce) for the government to be able to do what it has to do; we need a civil service that is professional, that is depoliticized, that operates within a rational pay system; but there is also an acknowledgement that many in government are not working.”

Meanwhile, Lofa County Representative Clarence Massaquoi filed a motion for the two officials to appear before plenary next Tuesday, October 28 to answer   lawmakers’ enquiries.

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