By State House Media Unit…..
_State House, Freetown, Tuesday 2 February 2021_ – Academic Staff Associations of Universities and Polytechnics in Sierra Leone have promised to call off their industrial actions and resume classes on 3 February 2021 after accepting on Tuesday commitments made by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio on behalf of government.
According to the agreement between government and University of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology, Njala University, Milton Margai College of Education and Technology and Freetown Teachers’ College, strategic discussions would continue on governance and quality assurance in the higher education institutions.
Government met almost all of the demands, key among which was to review the proposed 50% salary adjustment, by providing another 25% salary increase for all tertiary institutions effective 1 April 2021 in addition to the 25% already made in the 2021 budget, thereby meeting the proposed demand.
On the issue of waiving tax on leave allowances, the Government, represented by the Ministries of Finance and Technical and Higher Education, observed that that would go against Section (1)(s) of the Income Tax Act 2000 as amended, which states that: “Any leave allowance in excess of the gross monthly salary shall be subject to income tax at the existing highest marginal tax rate for individual income tax”.
“Given the legal implications highlighted above, Government cannot, therefore, waive income tax on leave allowances given its adverse impact on overall revenue generation of Government and the bad precedent that will be created for the wider public service,” the document reads.
Minister Technical and Higher Education, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie as chair of the meeting, described it as a special event and an opportunity for the representatives of the Academic Staff Associations to meet the President in his capacity as Chancellor of public universities of Sierra Leone.
He noted that the lecturers were not hungry for money but they actually wanted to leave a better life.
Vice-Chancellor of EBK University and team lead for the negotiation committee, Professor Edwin Momoh, thanked President Bio for being patient with them and described the meeting as a turnaround for their institutions because of a listening President who attended to their concerns.
“We are pleased to meet the President and to better articulate our challenges, especially our conditions of service. We are very hopeful, as the first meeting with Vice President Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh was also a productive one. We have no doubt about President Bio’s commitment to education as the engine for human development,” he said.
Dr Williette James, who is President of the Academic Staff Association of USL also thanked the President for intervening through the Vice President, adding that they had decided to embark on the strike actions because their plea for a better condition of service had not been looked into since 2019.
“We are now happy that the talk and do government has listened to our plea. We are smiling, even though all we had asked for was not featured. We believe that at this stage of the negotiation we must reconsider our actions, the students and go back to the classrooms,” she noted.
In his remarks President Bio thanked the lecturers for choosing such a noble profession, even though they had had challenges, adding that his decision to engage them was the best way to go to encourage them to put politics aside and think about the bigger picture of development.
He also emphasised that his government had prioritised human capital development, the reason why government and ASA should think of making the universities an enviable place of work that would attract many bright minds from other countries around the world.
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