The West African Health Sector Unions (WAHSUN) has joined ongoing calls for the immediate reinstatement of Joseph Tamba and George Poe Williams, the dismissed President and Secretary General of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia.
On February 2014, the Ministry of Health under the leadership of Dr. Walter Gwenigale dismissed 22 health workers including the President and Secretary General of the National Health Workers Association for inciting fellow health workers to abandon duties in protest for better incentives. But according to Baba Ayelabola, Coordinator of the West African Health Sector Unions’ Network (WAHSUN), the group at its 2nd Biennial Conference held in Cotonu Benin, resolved to pursue the case until victory. Mr. Ayelabola indicated that Public Services International (PSI), the Global Union Federation with WAHSUN member-unions and affiliates have taken up the campaign to reinstate the health workers with vigor. He furthered that “PSI has launched an online petition to the Liberian government, which we call on all trade unions, trade unionists and trade union federations in the West African sub-region and beyond to kindly sign”. “The struggle for the reinstatement of Comrades Tampa and Williams and for the restoration of trade union rights in the public sector of Liberia, including for NAHWAL is a struggle we must all wage and win, in the spirit of the May Day,” the Coordinator of the group maintained. Mr. Ayelabola lamented that in the past 130 years since the judicial murder of the Haymarket martyrs, through struggle, workers have won several rights, including that of trade union recognition and the provision of basic conditions of work that safeguard their lives. He further stated “the fact that Liberia has ratified the International Labor Conventions 87 of 1948 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) and 98 of 1949 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining). Liberian health workers, being conversant of the key lesson from history that freedom comes by struggle, have organized themselves as the National Health Workers’ Association of Liberia, which needs to be respected”. “NAHWAL and its members have been at the fore of calling for the strengthening of the Liberian health system for years, before the recent Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. They have called for improved funding of the sector and the urgent need for employment in the sector, in the face of a grossly inadequate health workforce. If these demands had been heeded, the impact of the Ebola epidemic would have been much less” he said.