Intermediate and Junior staff of the Gola Forest Conservation Concession Program (GFCCP) on Monday morning held their senior management personnel including the program manager David Zeller as hostages. The aggrieved workers closed all the gates to the compound at 166 Dama Road in Kenema, deflated all the tires of the vehicles in the compound and locked up the senior staff. They displayed several placards in the compound singing and shouting that they do not want the program manager David Zeller. Police led by the Local Unit Commander Joseph B. Kabbia went to the scene and it took them over an hour to persuade the workers to open the gate. Some of the placards read: “Zeller your behavior to the people of this country is not cordial why? Zeller and wife’s trip to Freetown is Le 200.000 while J.P and wife to Freetown is Le 50.000 why? David Zeller has no good working relationship with the workers; No end of service benefit why? Zeller must go.” A spokesman for aggrieved workers Sulay Mohamed told the LUC that the workers decided to go on strike because of the following reasons: There is no overtime allowance for them and also alleged that David Zeller beats them up when he is drunk ; They are working in dangerous zones in the forest; No end of service benefit and medical facilities are not extended to any of their biological relatives; The workers also alleged that there is victimization of junior staff by senior staff ;Poor salary condition and their has been no increment in salary since the project kicked off. They further alleged that workers who are supposed to be paid $ 400 dollars receive only Le 400,000. .
Addressing the aggrieved workers the Local Unit Commander told them that nobody is against them expressing their grievances but the channel used is wrong, adding that they did not notify the police by giving 21 days notice. He said although the police is now embarking on community policing, they will not allow anybody to take the law into his or her hands. He appealed to them to be peaceful and to channel their grievances through appropriate means which he promised to look into. The entire staff was taken to the police station for investigation. Speaking to the program manager before he left for the station under police escort he told the press that he received an anonymous email threatening that the workers will go on strike if immediate action is not taken to address their demands. He said the workers are raising various concerns but the channel used is very wrong which resulted to damage of property belonging to the project