REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE CONSORTIUM
The Government of Liberia is represented by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the Ministry of Education (MOE), the Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Civil Service Agency (CSA). The Consortium is represented by the Civil Servants Association of Liberia, the National Teachers Association of Liberia, National Health Workers Association of Liberia, the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System Teachers’ Association, and the National Parents Teachers Network of Liberia.
Since the Government of Liberia launched the wage, payroll, retirement and pension reforms, significant work has been done to ensure an effective payroll and retirement framework. Despite the level of progress made by the Government, serious challenges remain. Among the challenges is the lack of effective communication between the Government and public sector workers of the Consortium on the specifics and direction of ongoing reforms. Policy changes have not always been communicated effectively to workers, causing some problems.
These problems and uncertainties recently led members of the Consortium to engage the Government through a planned April 14 sit-in action. The Consortium issued a press statement discouraging the sit-in while expressing solidary with the concerns raised by the youth student leaders. At a meeting brokered by Imam Ali Krayee, Chief Imam of the Republic of Liberia, on Tuesday April 13, 2021, the Consortium agreed to enter formal discussion with the Government to understand the full extent of planned and ongoing reforms and how these would impact public sector workers belonging to the Consortium.
The Government and the Consortium met for four hours on April 15, 2021 in the conference room of the CSA and developed 24 problem areas of concern to the Consortium, problems or issues the Government may have already resolved, is in the process of resolving, or is planning to resolve. These 24 problem areas and their resolution form the core of this memorandum between the Government and the Consortium. The Memorandum of Understanding summarizes the clear policy actions the Government has taken relative to the identified problem areas, the actions that are ongoing, and the actions that are planned.
The MOU is also an effective communication tool to convey to public sector workers the full scope of reforms and actions taken and actions to be taken by the Government in all problem areas. The Government and the Consortium, through a Technical Working Group that has been set up, will develop different communication packages deriving from this MOU with the aim of providing more effective information to Consortium workers in their various settings and contexts.
The 24 problem areas identified have been reorganized into the following 11categories for the purposes of this Memorandum of Understanding:
- PENSION LAW
- FEBRUARY 2020 AND AUGUST 2020 RETIREMENT BENEFITS AND HANDSHAKE
- RECENT DISMISSAL OF TEACHERS ON THE BASIS OF TEST RESULTS
- TRANSITIONING RETIREES TO NASSCORP PENSION PAYROLL FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
- CHALLENGES WITH SALARY PAYMENT AND DISBURSEMENTS
- ABSENCE OF BANKS OR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN SOME RURAL AREAS AND DELAYS IN RECEIVING SALARIES AT COMMERCIAL BANKS
- BUDGETARY ALLOTMENT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS OPERATIONS, INCLUDING MCSS
- FORMER SUPPLEMENTARY TEACHERS
- COVID-19 HAZARD PAY
- PUBLIC SECTOR MONITORING AND EVALUATION
- NTAL CREDIT UNION BACK PAYMENT OF LRD1.3M
These problem categories are broken down into two main sections: an information section and an action section. Information section may summarize facts, contexts or provide general information on specific problem areas. The information section may describe a misunderstanding and may also describe a reform the Government has already completed. The action section may describe a reform that is ongoing or planned.
Under this MOU, the Government commits to completing or undertaking all such ongoing or planned actions and avails this MOU, which will be signed by relevant Government entities and the Consortium, as evidence of this commitment.
- PENSION LAW
LEGAL AGE OF RETIREMENT
Many Consortium workers are of the view that the legal age of pension is 65 years. This confusion arises from the fact that an old Civil Service Standing Order has 65 years as the age of retirement. In 2017, the National Legislature passed a new pension law that puts the legal age of retirement at 60. However, the Consortium workers complained that information on this new law is not available to them and their members or it is difficult to access and on that account several workers still refer to the old Standing Order in discussing the legal age of retirement.
The Consortium has indicated that the current retirement exercise of the Government has created disruptions within the public sector and have most especially created teachers and healthcare workers deficits in the classrooms and healthcare facilities. Therefore, they are calling on the Government to temporarily suspend the ongoing retirement process until a clear succession mechanism is put in place to reduce or eliminate the deficits within the public sector.
The Government through the Civil Service Agency (CSA) commits to making the 2017 Pension Law publicly available and more accessible. Copies of the law should be provided to all Consortium members. With this, the legal age for retirement is now 60 years of age as been defined in the new 2017 Pension Law of Liberia.
The Government has agreed to revise the implementation of the retirement exercise to address the concerns of the Consortium. Immediate actions by the Government will include:
- Granting special dispensation to MOE and MOH on the selection and retention of the teachers and health workers who are beyond the legal pension age of 60 years.
- Recruiting more teachers and health workers from the current list of voluntary health and education workers to fill the workforce gap created from the retirement exercise, especially within rural areas.
- This exercise will be implemented in consultation with the Civil Service Agency.
- FEBRUARY 2020 AND AUGUST 2020 RETIREMENT AND HANDSHAKE
The Consortium believes that the February 2020 retirement of consortium workers was generally honorable and free of problems. More than 80 percent of February retirees received their handshake and pension benefits and most in this category are on the social security pension payroll. However, the August 2020 retirement was poorly executed as Consortium workers had no information on the retirement process. The August retirement came as a surprise to many and many August retirees are yet to receive their handshake and pension benefits. Many in this category are not yet on the pension payroll.
The Consortium also complained that the August 2020 retirement exercise affected DEOs who had legally binding employment contract that granted them tenure. The Consortium is requesting the Government through the MOE to reinstate these DEOs for them to complete their tenure consistent with letter of assignment issued to them by the Ministry of Education.
The Government has since begun processing the payment of handshake for August retirees. The Government through the MOE has agreed to return more than 85 percent of August teacher retirees back to the classroom through its contract or consultancy payroll. Same applies to healthcare workers who are deemed fit by the MOH. This means that the Government has given special dispensation to teachers and healthcare workers who have reached the legal age of retirement of 60 years considering the special circumstances of these sectors. Those returning to the payroll will be processed for retirement over the next few years while the Government seeks their replacement in a dignified manner.
The Government through the ministries of Education and Health is compiling the list of all teachers and healthcare workers in terms of facility, location, worker qualification, number of workers to provide the Government adequate information for planning on human resource management including retirement in rural areas.
To resolve the concerns of the tenured DEOs who were retired and removed from the payroll in August 2020, the Government through MOE will reinstate the DEOs on a contract basis to the extent of their tenure and pay them consistent with the salary of DEOs. The effective date of this contract reinstatement will be 30 days from the signing of this MOU.
- RECENT DISMISSAL OF TEACHERS ON THE BASIS OF TEST RESULTS
The Consortium complained that the MOE recently removed some 386 teachers from the payroll on the basis of a framework developed by the previous administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The framework required that teachers be tested. The test, which was administered during the 2016-2017 academic year, showed that about 386 teachers were deemed not fit for the classroom since they earned far below the expected average. About 67 of the teachers that failed the test left the sector; another 28 were requalified and came back. The Consortium is asking the Government to rehire the remaining 291teachers because they believe the test was not standardized.
The Government through the MOE is open to rehiring these teachers as long as they qualify themselves through formal education training. Some 28 teachers in this category have since re-qualified and have been placed back on the payroll. The invitation to requalify has been extended to all similarly affected teachers.
- TRANSITIONING TO NASSCORP AND SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
C1 FORMS, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, GOL PAYROLL AND SOCIAL SECURITY DATA INTEGRATION
The reality is that the social security system for public sector workers has been a historical challenge. Consortium workers along with Government Spending Entities have found the filling of the C1 forms to be a complex and cumbersome process that has contributed to significant delays in the enrollment of retirees on the pension payroll and the processing of benefits. Also, most public sector workers during the active working period do not enroll to have social security numbers and there is limited data integration between the Government and the NASSCORP systems. For example, while NASSCORP has had payroll data for the private sector, NASSCORP has never had payroll data for public sector workers, making the processing of benefits more difficult.
The Consortium is also complaining that retirees are receiving benefits only in LRD whereas they made their contributions in both LRD and USD.
The Government has constituted a technical working team comprising NASSCORP, MFDP, and the CSA to implement a roadmap on automation of the pension system through data sharing and integration between NASSCORP and the central government systems. The automation will accelerate enrollment and the migration of public employees’ job and earnings history to the NASSCORP pension system, enabling the government to develop and issue regular monthly pay slip that will capture employee social security contributions, date for retirement, and estimated pension benefit after retirement.
The Government Technical Working Team through the Civil Service Agency will also work with spending entities to ensure enrollment of existing government employees on the NASSCORP system, and issue procedures that give up to three months notices to prospective retirees, and conduct adequate pre-retirement counselling. During the three-month notice, HRs of spending entities are required to ensure completion of the C1 forms of prospective retirees to ensure timely transition to the pension payroll after retirement.
The Government through the technical team to ensure retirees receive their benefits in the currency in which social security contributions were made.