…Labour Committee told
March 23, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Senior officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) last Thursday made a complaint against ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to the Committee on Labour and Industrial Relations in Parliament that MDAs are in default of paying both the minimum wage and NASSIT benefits to beneficiary workers.
Speaking to Members of Parliament during a familiarisation meeting held at the Administrative building of the House, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Babah Fortune, said they are working on laws that have exceeded 40 years and needed to be reviewed, thus the ongoing review of labour laws which are obsolete.
He said the Japanese International Corporation (JIZ) has promised to support the design of the National Employment Policy.
He drew the attention of the MPs to the fact that most employers are yet to implement the minimum wage policy which requires them to pay employees at least Le500,000 per month. He said monitoring poses a serious challenge to them, but they would start to chase defaulters as “ignorance of the law will not be tolerated”.
Mr. Fortune further informed the MPs that as far as the social safety net policy is concern, regular cash transfers were paid to beneficiaries in 2014, but that in early 2015, food items were sent to Kailahun instead of cash payment because of the Ebola outbreak. JIZ and ILO, he added, were key partners in that aspect in terms of technical support.
He further stated that the Work Permit Bureau has started operations as some employers bring in foreign workers into the country without going through the necessary procedures, noting: “They only take residential permit and forgo other requirements, including the process of having documents scrutinised and ID cards prepared that will indicate they have right to work and stay in the country.”
He told the committee that the issue of budget allocations is of serious concern because it hinders their work, with lack of a fully operational office space being one of their constraints, adding that labour officers lack inspectional equipment to do their work.
On his part, Minister of Labour, Dr. Mathew Teambo, said they are also working on the Migration Policy which would provide help to workers who leave the country to seek employment overseas either by sea or other means without proper working or residential documents to especially Lebanon and Kuwait.
He said they had identified seven oversees countries that are in the habit of abusing young Sierra Leonean women and girls, and vowed that they could be banned as destinations for oversees employment for Sierra Leoneans.
He maintained that the policy would soon go to Cabinet before being tabled in Parliament for passage into law.
Director General of NASSIT, Joseph S. Mans Jr., said compliance on the payment of taxes by employers is challenging as even though the last committee chair had assisted them in collecting taxes, yet MDAs still renege in paying the 15% (employer and employee) contribution to NASSIT.
He stated that the issue of benefit payment is of great concern to them as it affects the lives of many Sierra Leoneans, but promised the situation would be regularised in due course, adding that they have huge unprocessed benefit files due to faulty software machines.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Dr. Foday Suma, said the officials’ concerns have been heard as there are issues in NASSIT and the Labour Ministry that are of great concern to his committee in order to ensure compliance with labour laws.
He promised that there would be a thorough investigation of how international non-governmental organisations and local non-governmental organisations have complied with the issue of minimum wage, as there is no excuse for free service in the country.
He stressed that migration laws should be implemented.