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21st January 2019

Finance Ministry's Late Benefit Payments Causes Pavi Fort Staff to Down their Tools! 

By Ranger (31/12/18)

The SLPP government has been blamed for the Pavi Fort staff strike because the Finance Ministry failed to make payments to the firm on time.

 

This delayed government payment was unearthed after some redundant workers of Pavi Fort Construction Company staged a peaceful protest demanding payment of their severance benefits from their company. (Photo: Mr. Alimu Barrie, the Pavi Fort boss).

At the Congo Cross Head Office in Freetown, the leader of the protest - that happened on Friday 21st December 2018 - Wasa Samuel Kpaka said that some 26 workers were recently made redundant by the company, but they were not paid their severance benefits.

Mr. Wasa Kpaka, the former Senior Site Supervisor of the Kabala Township Project, disclosed that several attempts to get the company to honour its obligation failed. And that was why they resorted to explore other diplomatic avenues, which included meetings with the regional office of the Ministry of Labour, the Parliamentary Committee on Labour, the Legal Aid Board and other stakeholders.

Reports say all these stakeholders paid deaf ears. Eventually they decided to stage a peaceful protest against the company at its Freetown office, in a bid to draw the attention of the authorities to their plight.

It was during the protest that the newly transferred Local Unit Commander of the Sierra Leone Police, Superintendent Foday Osman Sesay suddenly arrived at the scene with a team of officers to investigate the cause of the peaceful strike.

After the police were prevented from entering the premises by the protesters, a dialogue was reportedly held with those leading the protest and the team was allowed to investigate the matter with the company's officials.

Police at Congo Cross Station reportedly grabbed one of the protesters called Hawa and her baby. Police were believed to have embarrassed journalists at Pavi Fort office at angry workers were claiming that for the past three months the company refused to pay their salaries. (Photo: Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa).

Speaking to the LUC in the company’s office, the Administrative Officer of Pavi Fort, Mr. Rogers acknowledged having to pay the aggrieved former workers their severance benefits, but stressed that the ugly situation was the failure of the SLPP government to pay the company for the work done along the Kabala Township roads.

He said that the project undertaken by the company was pre-financed by its CEO and payments were made in between work, but maintained that the government owes it a colossal amount of money for the work done and the CEO, Alimu Barrie, has for the past week, been in constant engagement with the Ministry of Finance on the outstanding payment.

He stated that the company recognises its commitment to its workers, but in the present position they do not have the money to pay them as the government is yet to honour its commitment to them.

Resident Minister North, Abu Abu Abdulai Koroma, suddenly showed up at the scene and was able to calm down the protesters, after requesting for a meeting between the company officials in the office and some of the aggrieved workers.

During this meeting witnessed by the police and members of the press, the leader of the Protest Samuel Kpaka highlighted their grievances and called on the company to pay them their benefits. He intimated that investigations carried out by his own team suggest that the company had not been paying NASSIT for its workers.

Minister Abu Abu assured the striking workers that they will be paid what is owed them, but explained that he was in the Ministry of Finance with the CEO when he heard of the protest and came to explain to them about the developments taking place so far on their plight. He said that the Finance Minister has been engaged on the issue, but he had said that Pavi Fort will be paid together with other contractors in January 2019.

He thus appealed to the workers to exercise patience as he will be directly involved in the settlement of their case. He told the aggrieved workers that the company’s CEO even challenged the Ministry and Sierra Leone Road Athority SLRA to do a complete audit of the work done in the Kabala Township and they will discover that the amount paid so far by the government is not commensurate with the quantum of work done.

Minister Abu Abu Abdulai Koroma was able to persuade the workers to exercise patience as progress is being made with the Finance Ministry to release payments to the company, which in turn will pay them the outstanding balance. He assured the protesters that he was committed to make it happen.

TRIBUTE: Alpha Shaw

Journalist, Student Activist, Leader, 1958-1980

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