The Sierra Leone Employers’ Federation and Sierra Leone Labour Congress have urged the Government of Sierra Leone to provide a tax waiver on customs duties for essential goods as a measure to support business during the COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone.
They have also urged the government to provide supplementary funds for state-owned enterprises severely hit by COVID-19, especially in the travel and tourism sectors.
The plea was made in a joint press release issued by the President of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Jennings Wright, and the Chairman of the Sierra Leone Employers’ Federation, Kobi Walker, on 14 April 2020. The statement came after a consultative meeting held by the two organisations to ascertain how government, employers and workers can collaborate to minimise the negative impact of this pandemic on the economy, employers, workers and the society at large.
The press release stated, “COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and its negative impact on the livelihood of all nations cannot be overemphasised.” Therefore, the organisations have put forward the following requests for the immediate consideration and action of government and all related parties:
- Government should set up a National Level Committee comprising private sector representatives along with other key stakeholders such as trade unions, academics, scientists and community groups along with related ministries to deal with the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Government should encourage the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) locally.
- Government should ensure the safety and provide incentives for COVID-19 frontline workers.
- Mobile operators in the country should be encouraged to introduce affordable packages to aid communication and reduce physical human interaction in respect of payment of goods and services as well as money transfer.
- Government should engage banks and other financial institutions to suspend the collection of business loans and repayments during this crisis period.
- Government should make available foreign currency to facilitate the importation of essential goods and services.
- Government should consider waiving electricity and water charges for consumers for a specified period.
They also recommended that the reviewed minimum wage of SLL600,000 be put into effect on 1 July 2020 to ensure employers of struggling businesses are able to grant temporary leave to workers with an agreed fixed monthly payment until recovery from COVID-19. However, employers are also encouraged in such circumstances to pay the employer as well as Employee National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) monthly contributions in full.
Another recommendation was that government should order the NASSIT and National Revenue Authority (NRA) not to impose penalties on defaulters’ payments and also to waive interest on defaulters during this period.
The two institutions, the Sierra Leone Employers’ Federation and the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, are umbrella bodies responsible for the welfare and concerns of employers and workers alike.