The Chairman of the former Bong Mining Company Employees Committee, J. Jaye Larblah, at the launch of the validation of names of the former workers as of August 31, 1990, has disclosed that the Committee has agreed to waive US$4.9m through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Wednesday, November 27, last year.
Mr. Larblah told the Daily Observer in exclusive interview over the weekend, that the waiver was done in close consultations with the former employees of BMC, and the pronouncement is intended to sensitize the public, that neither the Government ,or any concession companies, shall henceforth, in no way or form, be indebted to ex-BMC workers.
The Larblah committee, as of today, is expected to publish the names of 1,804 former employees, and is requesting anyone, who has not seen their name published, to proceed to the “upper flat chamber of Oppong’s Store at Red-light with documents to justify their inclusion.” (See the names in the paper).
“The validation of the names will end on Saturday and hopefully, before on by the 15th of January, payment of benefits for former BMC employees will begin,” Mr. Larblah said.
He added: “About 90% of the former BMC employees had already taken their ID cards and we are informing those that did not, to go the upper dlat chamber of Oppong’s Store.”
It may be recalled, the former BMC Workers claimed that the BMC Management owed them about US$17m, but the Government of Liberia agreed to pay US$13m.
Legal representation by Cllr. Varney Sherman produced for the former BMC workers, US$4.1m, leaving a balance of US$8.9m.
After over four years of silence, the former BMC workers began ending strike actions, when the multi- billion-concession company, China Union, which is operating the erstwhile BMC, began operations.
Fortunately, given the efforts of Trustees, Inter-ministerial Committees and the media, the Government of Liberia finally agreed to listen to the workers; pleas; most of the almost 2,000 workers are now in their 50s.
On Wednesday, November 7, at the Ninth Floor Conference Room of the Finance Ministry, the Government of Liberia signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with former workers of the Bong Mining Company (BMC) agreeing to pay US$4 million to the workers in back wages.
The money, according to Finance Minister Amara M. Konneh, is a lump sum payment to the former BMC workers to leave the old BMC facility and give way for China Union to commence full operations in the area. The government also signed another MOU with squatters occupying the BMC facility in Bong Mines and the railroad to leave the area.
According to the MOU, the Government will make the lump sum payments to the former BMC workers and the squatters beginning from December 15th to January 10th 2014.
In the case of the squatters, the government agreed to pay US$500 to each of the 857 family heads between December 15th and January 10th 2014 as a one-time payment.
This means that all of the squatters will receive a lump-sum payment of US$428,500, from the government.
Speaking during the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Finance, Minister Amara Konneh thanked the former BMC workers and the squatters. He assured them that the monies were already allotted in the budget “and this MOU commits the government to disbursing them.”
He said the signing of the MOU with the former BMC workers and the squatters marked the closure of a dark page in the economic history of Liberia.
Konneh also assured the public that the concerned parties have made formal, legal commitments to evacuating the premises and no longer impede China Union’s operations.
He pointed out that once the housing units in Bong Mines and the railroad are rehabilitated and taken care of, China Union plans to increase its iron ore production from 50,000 metric tons to 800,000 metric tons within a year, thereby injecting billions of dollars into the economy.
“In the coming year or two,” he said ‘China Union will contribute about US$5 million a year in revenue to the government for development purposes.”
According to Minister Konneh, China Union also plans on increasing its current employment of 232 Liberians to 459 Liberians in the span of one year.
Earlier, the Chairman of the former BMC Employees Committee J. Jaye Larblah thanked the government of Liberia for agreeing to pay them off.
Mr. Larblah, however, appealed to the government to press China Union to employ those former BMC workers that have the skills and are still strong enough to work.
According to him, there is no need for the Chinese company to hire foreigners when Liberians are qualified for the job.