State House, Freetown, Thursday 26 October 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has had a frank engagement with executive members of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, SLLC, where they discussed several issues affecting consumers, workers and citizens.
Secretary General, SLLC, Max K. Conteh, said they appreciated efforts by the President to ensure that workers were recognised as a result of reforms in their laws, adding that they had visited to confirm that the country’s labour laws were among some of the best in terms of protecting workers.
He said that even though they were the most critical of all the groups in the country, they believed in dialogue with the government in the interest of the state and workers. He expressed optimism and said they were looking forward to having a successful tenure under President Bio.
In a position statement read and presented to the President, the Congress highlighted six socio-economic factors that were affecting Sierra Leoneans, including the increase in the cost of petroleum products, the cost of transportation, the cost of essential commodities, the salary and wages of workers, taxation, and the electricity tariff.
President Julius Maada Bio listened to their concerns and expressed appreciation that they could raise those issues on behalf of the generality of workers but reminded them of the many efforts his government had made to cushion the effects of COVID and the ongoing global crisis.
“The external shocks reverberating within nations have led to what we are going through in Sierra Leone. My government has put many measures in place to cushion the effects of COVID and the international financial crisis, supply chain disruptions, the war in Ukraine and others. These disruptions have made it difficult for us to keep on track despite the gains we made in controlling inflation.
“What we are experiencing in Sierra Leone today is not different from what is happening in other countries. This is not an excuse. It’s reality. Our level of protection as a fragile nation and economy is a problem, as we cannot do more than what we can do at the moment.
“We have been paying bills for the supply of electricity running into $50 million. The government cannot continue paying subsidies on fuel as a result of the fact that we have to take care of education, health, agriculture, and other areas of great importance.
“We are working towards ensuring that we improve the economy as a government, and on that path, we are calling on the people to be patient with us. The fact remains we don’t produce fuel. Notwithstanding, it is not a pleasure for us as a government to see our people pay more for commodities.
“The world is in a bit of turmoil. I totally agree with you that the price of fuel affects the cost of other commodities. However, it is our business to protect all workers and as the President, I believe in dialogue in the interest of development, peace, and national cohesion,” the President assured.
The meeting took place under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment, Labour and Social Security.
In giving the closing courtesies, Minister Mohamed Rahman Swaray assured His Excellency about the several legal and policy reforms taking place to further guarantee and protect workers’ rights and said that his ministry would spare no efforts at correcting the many anomalies associated with the labour sector in the country.
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