Liberia: House to Engage Minimum Wage Board to Set Suitable Minimum Wage  

Rep. Goshua reminded his colleagues that the obvious reality is that there is increased hardship in the country matched against the limited household incomes.

CAPITOL HILL, MONROVIA – The plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Labor to engage the Minimum Wage Board set up at the Ministry of Labor to review the current minimum wage for a possible increase.

By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – gerald.koineyeneh@frontpageafriconline.com

The move was in response to a request by Rep. Thomas Goshua (District #5, Grand Bassa County). Rep. Goshua, in a communication to plenary said it was about time that the House engage the Minimum Wage Board chaired by the Minister of Labor to make the right decision to promote decent work in Liberia.

“The present minimum wage doesn’t commensurate with the cost of living standard and we think it is unacceptable,” he said.

Rep. Goshua had written a Plenary in February this year, requesting the appearance of the Minister of Labor and his team to give clarity on the implementation of the Decent Work Act. However, his communication was forwarded to the committee room and since then, the committee has not reported.

In that communication, he cited the World Bank’s 2023 Macro Poverty Outlook for Liberia which estimates that growth is expected to slow by 4.3%, reflecting global shutdown and uncertainties surrounding the Russia-Ukraine crisis as well as the 2023 general and presidential elections.

The outlook shows that poverty was declining before the COVID-19 pandemic, but higher food prices and lower prices for mineral commodities increased poverty during the pandemic. Interestingly an estimated 67% of average household spending is devoted to food purchases, which is largely influenced by an unprecedented rise in food inflation borne out of the disruption in global supply chain.

Rep. Goshua reminded his colleagues that the obvious reality is that there is increased hardship in the country matched against the limited household incomes, which were reduced by an estimated 40%, citing the World Bank poverty index.

“Unfortunately, this is without any form of intervention from the Minimum Wage Board that has the statutory responsibility to set wages and make adjustments whenever necessary, especially during such period where the economy has taken a nosedive and household incomes cannot compensate for the deficit created as a result of the high foreign exchange rate,” he said.

He told his colleagues that they have a responsibility to ensure that this matter is addressed by inviting the authorities of the Minimum Wage Board to inform this Plenary as to what is being done, based on the undeniable reality that the Liberian economy currently faces.

He said his request to invite the minister and his team is based on Section 5.2 of the Decent Work Act of the Republic of Liberia which among other things, called for the Minimum Wage Board review from time to time and recommended minimum wages that will promote the attainment of decent work in Liberia.

 That provision also calls on the minimum wage board to consider the costs of living, and the living standards generally prevailing in the community, the desirability of setting wages as nearly as possible at a level that would be sufficient to maintain the health, efficiency, and general well-being of employees and their families; the state of economic development and growth, including business productivity; and the likely impact on business competitiveness and viability.

Currently, there’s no official announcement of a minimum wage set by the Minimum Wage Board. However, Liberia’s Labor Law provides a provisional minimum wage until the Board establishes one.

In his latest communication, he reminded plenary about his previous request and reiterated his call for the Minister to appear.

“The minimum wage board is a statutory body setup to review and recommend minimum wages, from time to time, that will promote the attainment of decent work in Liberia. Mr. Speaker, we therefore request that plenary invites the minimum wage board which is chaired by the Minister, to appear before this body, to give clarity on their plans for the minimum wage of our people.”

Plenary’s decision comes as workers at major concessions and businesses demand better working conditions and wages. Sometimes these demands lead to violent protests that result in damage of properties, injuries and even loss of lives like the riots that took place at Bea Mountain concession area in Grand Cape Mount in February this year.

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