African News

Freetown: Gravediggers demand overdue salaries

29 January 2016 at 09:45 | 1279 views

PV Staff.

A report by Septimus Kanu of Platinum Media states that gravediggers from the Kissy Road, Ascension Town, Race Course and Circular Road cemeteries plan to stage a public protest over "the alleged refusal of the Freetown City Council (FCC) to pay them over two months backlog salaries."

The gravediggers, according to PM, have reportedly issued an ultimatum to the Freetown City Council to "pay what they owe them or things will get nastier."

Grave-diggers around the country played a significant role when the Ebola epidemic hit, taking away the lives of thousands of people, both health workers and ordinary citizens, but the issue of prompt payment of their salaries or wages (some were casual or temporary workers) became part of national news due mostly to bureaucratic challenges or red tape.

PM says the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) headed by former Defence Minister Palo Conteh signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year for the burial of Ebola victims in the respective city cemeteries after the Kingtom cemetery could no longer accommodate more burials.

"Each gravedigger was paid a monthly salary of Le 900,000 according to the NERC MOU. However, following Council’s refusal to pay them for the last two months, the grave diggers are suspecting that the remaining two months salaries of their one year contract have been converted by greedy officials at the FCC," the PM report asserts.

PM says a senior official at the FCC, Zainu Parker has denied the allegation "but however failed to provide a convincing explanation of how what is supposed to be a one year contract for the gravediggers suddenly fell short of two months."

Freetown City Council mayor Franklyn Bode Gibson (photo), like most of his predecessors, constantly faces pressure as head of a municipal government with limited resources in an ever-expanding and growing city with over two million residents.

The gravedigger issue however seems to be outside his mandate and more to do with the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC). which disburses and monitors funds for all Ebola-related work although other sources put the blame squarely on the doorstep of the FCC.