By Simeon S. Wiakanty & Robin Dopoe, Jr.
The Minister of Labor, Moses Y. Kollie, has vowed to take legal action against any employer who fail to regularize the status of their alien employees once the ultimatum given to them to do so expires by the end of the month.
Min. Kollie issued the ultimatum a day after he demanded that the Management of APM Terminals immediately re-instate 17 of its employees, who had been dismissed. He frowned on the company’s policy of hiring employees through sub-contractors, which is intended to evade responsibilities such as the payment of benefits for year(s) served.
Addressing a news conference on Tuesday in Monrovia, the Minister stated that the decision was reached after a vigorous joint inspection of employment institutions across the country, uncovering some violations of the country’s labor laws. He said that the one-month ultimatum is to allow them to find ways to curtail these violations.
“As you are aware, our statutory responsibilities mandate us to promote a friendly and decent work sector while also ensuring that employers and employees can amicably resolve issues arising from the workplace, without degenerating into a violent conflict”, he said in a press statement.
“Towards these, we have instituted actions that will further promote and uphold the full implementation of the Decent Work Act of 2015.
“Beginning now, we are hereby giving a one-month ultimatum to all employers to regularize the status of their alien employees, if need be, before the 31st of March 2018″, the statement noted.
“This is to ensure that employers adhere to the mandate in an effort to avoid further legal actions in line with the labor laws of Liberia,” Min. Kollie said. He also pointed out that the joint inspection team will include the Ministry of Labor (MOL), the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), and the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS).
“Let it be noted however, that our inspection will not only be out for work permits but also key structural compliance issues like the work environment, employees safety, salary structures, fair treatment among other things,” he said. “We encourage all those employers concerned to kindly be aware that the Ministry will not issue any prior notice to visit your institution during these periods of inspection in line with the Decent Work Act of 2015.“
The Decent Work Bill, the country’s first labor law since the 1950s, was signed into law in 2015, but has not been fully implemented.
The Decent Work Bill, among other things, promotes fundamental rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively; the right not to be subject to forced or compulsory labor; the right to equality at work, and to equal working conditions regardless of gender or other irrelevant criteria; and the right not to be subject to the worst forms of child labor. The law also seeks to implement certain fundamental rights found in Liberia’s Constitution.
Also, the rights of employers and workers and their organizations will be protected through new institutions and processes that are established by the new law.