Aggrieved ArcelorMittal Workers End Strike

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The part of Area “O” where most of the striking ArcelorMittal Liberia workers live. The workers are demanding better housing facilities.

Aggrieved ArcelorMittal workers who staged a protest on Friday, July 20, for bad labor practice yesterday ended their action by returning to work, following frantic efforts by Nimba County leadership.

The four day strike action brought operations at the concession community in the old mining town of Yekepa to a grinding halt. The situation nearly turned violent on July 23, when some of the protesters threatened to go on the rampage.

One of the aggrieved workers said they abandoned their strike following Representative Joseph Sonwabi’s (District #3) intervention via a telephone call to them to quit the strike action and return to work.

They workers had earlier refused to listen to Nimba County Inspector Reginald Mehn, who they felt could not address their plights.

Late Monday evening, Nimba County Superintendent Dorr Cooper said the workers have agreed to resume work, while the authority looks into their complaint.

Though he did give any time table as to when the workers concerns will be addressed, he assured them that some of the key concerns will be taken care of, but did not elaborate further.

According to some of the aggrieved mine workers, the management does not care to address their plights, rather continue to suppress them whenever they tried to voice out concerns.

The workers want management to remove the “Zero Week” policy in their work time, improve the feeding aspect at work, provide good housing facility and good healthcare.

For the Zero Week, they complained that in some weeks, they would work for 12 hours, including overtime, but the management would only pay them for the normal eight working hours, excluding their overtime.

The workers’ decision to resume work also came against the backdrop of the company management’s appeal to them on Monday to end their action and return to work while their leadership engage in dialogue to find an amicable solution to their concerns of “bad labor practices.”

In a press statement, the company admitted to being grossly affected by the ongoing strike action, which the employees instituted in the company’s load and haul department in direct opposition to the agreed position of their union representatives recently.

The company described the strike as illegal, but said it is still willing to go into negotiations with the aggrieved employees and sort things out peacefully.

“ArcelorMittal Liberia is committed to communicating openly with its employees. Unfortunately, in this instance, no warning of the strike was given, and due to the huge operational costs of a strike, we are urging our workers to go back to work while we continue discussions with them on the issues that are important, including wage levels, working hours, children’s education and health,” the company said in a statement.

5 COMMENTS

  1. What do you expect from an Indian company? Liberians are to be blamed themselves for giving this mine to some Indians. There were a lot of excellent companies that bided for the mines to take over the former LAMCO concession areas, but because they were not willing to pay bribes to government officials, our government at the time gave the mines to an Indian company that paid them bribes. Sad. I used to live in Yekepa, and seeing the photos of area O is just sad.

    • Luke,
      This is what is wrong with our country, people get bribes and for get their own citizen. I know yekepa myself, in the early 70s my older brother was working there, and I went to visit he as a small boy, i was so proud of what I saw-LAMCO than, i almost did not want to leave, but as I see the pictures, of the building, I don’t even know if I can live there. Those that represent our people do not think of them as anything, because the brown bag they receive during these negotiation. Someone sit in Monrovia in his air condition office and make calls for people to go back to work because someone from management have given him the cool water-so he is happy where he is and does not care for his own people. We got far way to go as Liberians.

  2. An anonymous philosopher once said, “Leadership involves remembering past mistakes, doing analysis of today’s achievements, and developing a well-grounded imagination in visualizing the problems of the future.”

    Liberian leaders (past and current) seem not to take this philosophical concept seriously whenever they are negotiating long term concession contracts with these billion dollars multinational companies like ArcelorMittal, Firestone, Sime Darby and others that are extracting precious resources out of Liberia.

    Many companies over the years, when they finished their operations in Liberia either due to economic crisis or some other reasons, have the tendency to leave behind many undeveloped ghost towns coupled with huge environmental degradation.

    Many of these companies currently operating in Liberia give Liberians little compensation in return: they pay little taxes; they lack processing plants; they lack decent housing; they lack decent roads; they lack decent schools (except Firestone after renegotiation); they lack decent health facilities (except Firestone after renegotiation); they lack decent wages; and last but not least, they give little social accountability to the surrounding communities affected by their exploitation of Liberia’s vast natural resources.

    In the case of ArcelorMittal, a multinational company that made approximately US$68 Billion in 2017 and currently ranks the world largest steel producer in the world has the audacity to say, “ArcelorMittal Liberia is committed to communicating openly with its employees. Unfortunately, in this instance, no warning of the strike was given, and due to the huge operational costs of a strike, we are urging our workers to go back to work while we continue discussions with them on the issues that are important, including wage levels, working hours, children’s education and health.”

    It should have never reached this critical level for ArcelorMittal to understand that its huge profits rest on the aching backs of these poor workers who are treated like slaves in their own country. These workers are innocent victims of our greedy lawmaker (lawbreakers) and past leaders’ careless decisions in signing a so-called lucrative contract with ArcelorMittal without taking inconsideration what bad labor practices could be inflicted on these poor workers if protection clause or clauses were not embedded in the contract.

    Full disclosure: Those living quarters (buildings) of workers pictured above in Area “O” look exactly like the same old buildings that LAMCO left behind when I lived in once beautiful Yekepa (LAMCO) Area “EU #” number purposely omitted for privacy in early 1970’s.

    It is a shame that those dilapidated buildings in Area “O” pictured above were never torn down or renovated for the current ArcelorMittal employees of this US $68 Billion Company called ArcelorMittal.

    Liberian lawmakers (lawbreakers) who are making about U.S$10,000 monthly including unnecessary perks have the audacity not to understand why these poor aggrieved workers quietly laid down their tools and went on a non-violent strike. I bet, these lawmakers (lawbreakers) children are living in fancy gated mansions protected by their underpaid security guards.

    These aggrieved workers sent a non-violent message to this cheap company: ArcelorMittal huge operational cost they claimed they incurred during the strike shows their huge profit lies in these poor workers’ hands.

    Therefore, to reduce such huge operational cost next time and to have a win-win situation, both ArcelorMittal and our so-called lawmakers (lawbreakers) should listen carefully to these unfair treatments; listen carefully to these unfair labor practices of these aggrieved workers who got the worst-end of these one-sided concession deals: these desperately signed concession contracts that robbed Liberians of millions in potential revenues.

    It is never too late to find comparable solutions to this important national matter: you can renegotiate a better deal. Liberian Leaders please don’t make the same bad concession mistakes of the past. Put all Liberians (present and future generations) interest first when signing future long term concession contracts on behalf of the country.

    However, with the Economic Crisis becoming exponentially worse in Liberia, it is very hard to say, Happy Independence Day Liberia!!!

  3. Industrial strikes are part of the game. Everywhere in the world strikes take place but the reason why workers strike is the crux of the matter. The strikers in Nimba gave reasons for the halt on the job but those concerns have been unfortunately swept under the carpet on the premise that management will look into same AFTER the workers resume work. Poor and unethical promise. It mimics a hunter whose trap catches a deer and the hunter comes and finds the deer lying down helplessly and instead of killing it, he removes the trap, let the deer move a little distance and then the hunter lures the deer with a ripe banana.
    Will the plight of the workers ever be appropriately addressed or redressed when they have already resumed work by throwing away their trump card?
    When I worked in LAMCO as a vacation student, there was a huge strike. The government got involved through the Ministry of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and negotiations ensued for two weeks as the workers stood their ground even after threats of dismissals. The remained united and resolved refusing any penetration by detractors. At the end of the saga many of the concerns were adequately addressed including pay, health, PPE, education and overtime.
    Today the strike is over just over a phone call and no specifics given by the phone call. All this is happening because of the abject poverty in the country.

    • Fayia, You are so right, our people are mistreated because of poverty. I don’t know who is the person that made this call or his position with the Nimba Legislative Caucus, if he is a member of the Nimba delegation, I think he should start thinking about his job. Thank God to the person that took the pictures of those home, I don’t think this man saw the pictures, and if he did and did not know what is going on and for him to sit in Monrovia and make calls for people to go back to work, than he is not representing his people. And yes people are afraid to stay on strike for long my brother because of ” abject poverty in the country” especially when you got your own people who do not care, even though they pretend to represent you.

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