News / Africa

Liberian Government Talks with Striking Health Workers

FILE - Nurses tend to a man lying in traction at a hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.FILE - Nurses tend to a man lying in traction at a hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
x
FILE - Nurses tend to a man lying in traction at a hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
FILE - Nurses tend to a man lying in traction at a hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
Jennifer Lazuta
The Liberian government says negotiations are underway with more than 20,000 public health workers who have been on strike since July 23. The Ministry of Health has called on the health workers to return to work while the talks take place, but striking employees say they will stay home until their demands have been met. Patients, meanwhile, say they just want to receive treatment.
 
Negotiations between the Ministry of Health and leaders of the National Health Workers' Association of Liberia continued Thursday in the capital, Monrovia.
 
It’s been more than a week since Liberian public health workers - primarily nurses - stopped showing up to work. They are staging the country’s first nationwide health care strike to protest the government’s failure to respond to their demands for better benefits and working conditions.
 
"The government should see a reason to pay the civil servants, to employ people," said Philip Tamba is the deputy spokesperson for the National Health Workers' Association of Liberia. "We should respect labor laws in this country.  We don’t just work because we feel like working.  There are so many qualified Liberians that are qualified to provide health services for the Liberian people, for the masses.  But as I am speaking to you, now those people are sitting down although they told us to go back to work.”
 
Three basic demands

Tamba said the nurses have three main demands.
 
He said the first is an increase in salary.  Registered nurses in Liberia currently take home around $150 per month.  They are now asking for their salary to be increased to at least $200 per month.
 
The second demand is the timely payment of wages.  Tamba said many of the nurses report going two or three months without receiving their paychecks.
 
Tamba said the third demand is that the government give full-time employment status to longtime contracted workers, who do the same work as their employed colleagues, but receive no benefits.

Need for 'give-and-take'

Minister of Health Walter Gwenigale said he understands the concerns of the nurses, but said they must be willing to compromise because the Ministry’s budget isn’t big enough to meet all their demands.
 
"I want to confirm that I’m willing to continue to talk to the health workers on behalf of the health of our people; that it is important that the differences that we have be discussed and resolved," he said. "But there is one thing called negotiation where you have give-and-take, and there is something called a demand that must be met, irrespective of what happens.  Clearly some of these things that the people were talking about, some are at our level, others are not at our level."
 
As negotiations continue, Gwenigale and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have both urged the striking nurses to return to work for the sake of Liberia’s health.
 
Public hospitals and clinics throughout the country remain closed or are seriously understaffed.
 
Residents are increasingly complaining of not being able to find health care for themselves and loved ones.
 
Since the strike began, at least eight people are reported to have died after not receiving medical treatment.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs