Monrovia, September 21, 2021… The Ministry of Labour has ruled that the Management of Arcelor Mittal-Liberia pays aggrieve former workers Three Hundred and Eight Thousand United States Dollars (US$308,000) constituting total and final settlement for unfair labour practices meted against them by the Management.
Ministry mandate was contained in a ruling read by the Minister of Labour, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson at a press conference attended by the Ministry of Justice, National Bureau Concession and the leadership of the aggrieve workers at the Ministry of Labour in Monrovia.
See Ruling below
Date: September 21, 2021
Re: Aggrieved Contractors v. Management of Arcelor Mittal Liberia
In October of 2020 the Aggrieved former contractors of Arcelor Mittal Liberia submitted a complaint to the Ministry of Labour (hereinafter Ministry) requesting the Ministry intervention into alleged unfair labour practices which, they claim are being meted against them by the Management of Arcelor Mittal Liberia (hereinafter AML).
After initial meetings by Minister Charles Gibson with both AML management and the complainant , the matter was turned over to Deputy Minister Hannah Karbo, who jointly spearheaded intervention with Assistant Minister Zeo Mensah. However after a prolonged stalemate, the matter was transferred to the Assistant Minister for Labour Standards, Atty. Welma Blaye Sampson, with specific instruction to investigate the matter and submit findings in keeping with the law.
During the investigation, the workers submitted that they are Five Hundred Forty-Six (546) contractors who were hired by AML at different points in time ranging between four to seven years to work in various departments at two different AML sites, Buchanan and Yekepa. They said that they were employed as contractors but later turned over by AML to employment Agency firms; Frontline and ROSNA, who later lay them off after two years after serving in their respectively same positions at various AML facilities in Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties. They also claimed that AML failed in its promise to have them reemployed when business improves. The aggrieved former workers submitted that these acts by AML amounted to unfair labor practices. They also produced some I.D. Cards, Access passes and Social Security ID Cards allegedly issued to them by AML to substantiate their claims of being former workers of AML.
In defense, the AML Management asserted that its action to transfer the workers status from directly under AML to through employment Agencies was not illegal. AML claimed that the aggrieved former workers were casual workers and as such not entitled to employment benefits. They noted that the issuance of Access Pass to workers was to allow them to gain access to AML sites. However in the mind of contractors, they were contractors of AML, not Frontline/ROSNA because they had never applied for a job to Frontline/ROSNA.
While these investigations were ongoing the Aggrieved former workers blocked the rail on two occasions in protest of what they termed as AML “ delay tactics “ in reaching a compromise in order to have the case prolonged in the judicial process. The blockages of the rail and threats of blockage was condemned by Government but peacefully resolved without the use of force.
After listening patiently and reviewing documents presented by the parties, the Investigation gathers the following facts or findings:
2.1. That some of the contractors were duly issued access pass and hired at different points in time.
2.2. That AML introduced Frontline/ROSNA in 2013 to the contractors after most of them some had already worked for more than three years as contractors on AML sites.
2.3. That many of the contractors/ aggrieved former workers were layoff at various time by Frontline/ROSNA while others were made redundant by AML.
2.4. That in 2017 AML carried on new employment without considering the layoff workers
The issues to be addressed is whether or not:
AML continuous engagements of contracted workers uninterrupted beyond the three years constitute a violation the applicable Labor Law at that time?
The contractors who have worked with AML before transferred to Frontline/ROSNA have a legally enforceable right to receive benefits from AML?
We answer to both questions
3.1. The law governing during the time of engagement requires that the maximum period of service that may be stipulated in any contract of employment in writing shall be two years for a contract to be fulfilled and the maximum period of service for re-employment contract in writing shall be 18 months. There is no dispute as to whether the aggrieved contractors have spent more than 36 months at work.
3.2 Also several opinions of the Supreme Court are settled on this questioned.
3.3. Eventually , about a week ago both Parties, AML Management and the leadership of the aggrieved former workers eventually resulted to dialogue under the watchful eyes of the Ministries of Labor and Justice, assisted by the Bureau of Concession and arrived at a negotiated settlement of US$308,000 ( Three hundred and eight thousand United States dollars)
That AML pays the aggrieve former workers US$308,000 ( Three hundred and eight thousand United States dollars) constituting total and final settlement
That AML commences the disbursement of this amount directly to the affected workers on Thursday , September 23, 2021.
That this payment be disbursed to the affected workers by AML in Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties where AML has its operations and that the entire payment process be completed before October 1, 2021.
That the Leadership of the Aggrieved formers workers be given US$15,000 ( Fifteen thousand United states dollars ) to cover its overhead during the prolonged struggle for workers’ rights , despite not being a registered workers Union.
That the Leadership of the Aggrieved formers workers shall make itself available to be present during the disbursed period
That the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Justice and the Bureau of Concession will provide compliance monitoring to the process
That this amount shall be disbursed based on the list of names submitted to the Ministry of Labor by the Leadership of the Aggrieved former workers; copy of which is attached to this ruling and the amount to be disbursed to each affected workers .
That the attitude of blocking the rail because of pending grievances between management and workers is unacceptable and can result to damage of property, juries, death and/or economic sabotage. Accordingly government will not tolerate any further act.
And it is so ordered!
Cllr. Charles H. Gibson
MINISTER OF LABOR