Justice | Human Rights
23279167457 | 23277336904
89 Fort Street
Freetown | Sierra Leone
*The Secretary to the President*
*Office of the President*
*28th March, 2019*
*LETTER OF APPEAL REGARDING MEMO* *SENT TO MDA’s ON HOURS OF WORK AND PUNCTUALITY*
*The Christian Lawyers Centre ( hereinafter referred to as LEGAL LINK)* welcomes the efforts of the government and the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone in trying to instill discipline within the civil/public service in relation to punctuality and work ethics.
*In a Memo dated 19th March 2019, issued by the Secretary to the President and addressed to all permanent secretaries and heads of MDA’s,* we note that several directives have been issued to civil/public servants with respect to hours of work and punctuality.
Without prejudice to the well meaning intent of the government in issuing such a directive, as an organization that defends the rights and seek the interests of labourers in Sierra Leone, we wish to draw your attention to a few concerns that have been expressed by the majority of labourers in the country regarding the directives. We hope that these concerns will be taken in good faith and addressed accordingly.
(1) *The change of work hours from 8:30 am to 8:00 am is conflicting, onerous and overtly challenging*
You will recall that there was an earlier directive from the Office of the President in which all civil and public servants were required to report to work as early as *8:30 am.* Unannounced visits were even undertaken by the President to MDA’s to ensure compliance of same.
It is not clear in your Memo dated 19th March 2019 whether the earlier directives regarding reporting work hours *(8:30 am)* has been duly revoked or not. Some clarifications may be needed on this.
Additionally, this recent call for civil/public servants within MDA’s to come to work as earlier as *8:00 am* will be quite challenging for the majority of employees in the country given the fact that they had already gotten use to the *8:30 am* reporting time frame as earlier directed.
Furthermore, the traffic and transport challenges especially in the morning hours within the central business district cannot be overemphasized.
We therefore kindly appeal that the *8:30 am* reporting time as earlier directed be maintained so as to avoid an overstretch on the part of civil/public servants in the country.
(2) *The 30 minutes lunch break from Mondays to Thursdays is inhumane and unrealistic.*
We note also in the recent Memo sent by you to heads of MDA’s that the lunch break period is now *30 minutes (12:00 to 12:30pm)* from Mondays to Thursdays.
We consider this time frame not only inhumane but too short and unrealistic. It is important to emphasis that universal standard work ethics and practices demand that employees be given as a minimum one hour lunch break or recess from work at every work day.
*The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN International Labour Conventions and Standards* all support the view to have a reasonable time frame accorded to labourers regarding lunch break and recess from work.
Since Sierra Leone is a signatory to the above named Conventions, it therefore puts obligation on the government to uphold these minimum labour standards as it administrates over civil/public servants in the country.
*More negative still, in a country like Sierra Leone where most of the MDA’s lack inbuilt canteens and food stores to cater for the welfare of employees*, it maybe quite inhumane and unrealistic for workers to leave their offices, go out for lunch and get back to their place of work within the space of *30 minutes.*
We therefore kindly appeal that a *one hour* lunch break be provided to all civil/public servants to enable them have their lunch in one piece.
(3) *The absence of the provision of lunch breaks on Fridays resulting inadvertently to the deprivation of Muslim workers attending jummah prayers.*
We also note in your Memo to heads of MDA’s that *no lunch period was provided to civil/public servants on Fridays*.
Additionally, your directives further require civil and public servants to be in their offices from *8:00am in the morning to 3: pm in the afternoon without any lunch break or recess from work*.
This longish time frame, we humbly submit, will definitely affect not only the productivity output of workers, *but also a good number of Muslims, working in the public and civil service who had always taken advantage of their lunch break on Fridays to attend the jummah prayers*.
In a country where 70% of the population are Muslims, *it may be prudent to have at the very least an hour lunch break on Fridays so as to afford an opportunity to all Muslim civil /public servants to participate in their sacred jummah prayers on Fridays*.
*LEGAL LINK* is also of the firm belief that your stringent timelines as expressed in your Memo dated 19th March 2019 if implemented to the letter, *might create a platform for chaos, unfair treatment, unnecessary queries and animosity within Ministries, Departments and Agencies especially where employees are unable to religiously adhere to same*.
And where such ugly environment persists, the President’s well meaning agenda to see a productive and efficient civil /public service will be gravely undermined.
In conclusion, it may perhaps be prudent going forward for such Memos and directives to be *coming from the Human Resources Management Office (HRMO) to avoid suspicion of politicization of the civil / public service*.
We trust that our appeal will be given due consideration and treated with the urgency that it deserves.
*Rashid Dumbuya Esq.*
*CEO of LEGAL LINK*
*The Minister of Labour and Social Security*
*The Human Resource Management Office ( HRMO)*
*LEGAL LINK is a non- profit legal advocacy group that seeks to defend the rights of religious communities and vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone through public interest litigation, advocacy, legal and policy reforms and ensuring respect for fundamental human rights in both domestic and international law.*