The Plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated the committees on Lands, Mines and Energy; the Judiciary, Investment, and Labor to investigate Arcelor Mittal Liberia Limited over allegations of disrespect to members of the 54th Legislature, allegedly bad social and environmental agreement and bad labor practices at the company’s operation area.
The House’s Plenary has also added the Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong counties Legislative Caucuses to form part of the probe.
The House’s decision was reached on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 during the 18th day sitting of the 1st session of the House of Representatives of the 54th Legislature, following a communication to Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers from Nimba County District#3 Rep. Joseph Nyan Somwarbi. Somwarbi pleaded with his colleagues to invite the management of the company to clarify some concerns raised by him.
The Joint Committee is expected to report to plenary two weeks after the Easter Break.
According to Representative Somwarbi, his request to have an acquaintance meeting with the Arcelor Mittal management was downplayed, and he was later told to be part of the management’s planned meeting with the Minister of Mines and Energy.
The Nimba County lawmaker is requesting for the current status of the company’s operations with respect to the above specified conditions which include system of water supply, agreement with private land owners, power plant and supply and the use of the US$200,000 annual scholarship fund.
Accordingly, Representative Somwarbi indicated that contrary to the provision in Article X, Section 1, which talks about health care, the company is operating a 150-bed hospital below clinic standards, with one lab technician and no pharmacist.
It may be recalled that Arcelor Mittal in 2017 re-employed at least 200 workers it had declared redundant in the past two years due to unfavorable global economic factors that affected the price of iron ore on the world market.
In June 2015, 250 workers were declared redundant, while 142 jobs were also sliced in 2016, leaving many frustrated about the prospects of the world’s leading iron producer’s presence in Liberia.
The slicing of social development funds for Grand Bassa, Nimba and Bong counties by the company also remains a contentious issue, which observers have described as a ‘gloomy’ future for the company’s investment in Liberia.
When the company opted to slice jobs, the workers union put up a stiff resistance, prompting a deal which specified that redundant workers would be rehired once the production and market conditions improve.
“What becomes of the promising future for those that were redundant and those that intend to comeback? The union did not just agree with management to declare those workers redundant,” explained Michael Tobloun, Secretary General of the AML worker union.
“We agreed that if things subside, if the financial situation improves, if the price of iron ore was appreciated, some of those redundant will be rehired.”
There are various prices of iron ore on the world market, but there are reports of a significant rise in the price. Market Index on January 3, 2017 reported that the price is US$74.37 per ton. This is a significant improvement, considering that the price of iron ore slumped to as low as US$37.50 per ton.
The Nimba County lawmaker is requesting for the current status of the company’s operations with respect to the above specified conditions, which include system of water supply, agreement with private land owners, power plant and supply and the use of the US$200,000 annual scholarship fund.
Accordingly, Representative Somwarbi indicated that contrary to the provision in Article X Section 1, which talks about healthcare, the company is operating a 150-bed hospital below clinic standards with one lab technician and no pharmacist.