ArcelorMittal’s Redundant Workers Seize Railroad Again

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Flashback: ArcelorMittal redundant workers stage protest on train track in Grand Bassa County

Dozens of redundant workers of ArcelorMittal Liberia have seized the railroad in Sanniquellie, halting the movement of trains in protest of their status, since their redundancy in 2014 due to the Ebola virus epidemic.

According to the spokesperson of the aggrieved redundant workers, Kingston Ylanbor, they have waited with patience for a long time without getting any redress from the management of AML, and they will ensure that movement of locomotives will cease until their problems are addressed.

Mr. Ylanbor said the protest will be peaceful, but if anyone provokes them, they will go on the rampage and destroyed anything they lay hands on.

“We have applied all the persuasive methods to get our status with the company after it redundant us in 2015 or give us our benefits if it does need our services anymore, but it has refused to meet any of these conditions,” said Emmanuel Weah, Secretary of the aggrieved workers.

The workers who served Mittal in various capacities saw themselves retired in 2015 due to the Ebola virus that hit the country coupled with Mittal’s own financial crisis that resulted from the fallen price of iron ore.  Under the Decent Work Act of Liberia, redundant workers under such a condition are to be reemployed when the condition for which they were redundant improves, and investigation conducted by an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Ministries of Labor and Justice came out with a favorable result for the redundant workers to be reinstated.

“[ArcelorMittal] should be required to rehire all workers redundant, except those no longer willing to resume work or for whom different circumstances have made the same impossible,” the Labor Ministry recommended. “Workers not legally encumbered from working, but whom ArcelorMittal is unwilling to hire, will be deemed wrongfully dismissed and subject to payment of compensation.”  The investigation report called for laid-off workers to be paid for up to 24 months if the company does not reinstate them.

The financial condition and the Ebola crisis for which the workers were laid off had since gone and the market has significantly improved.  Market Insider, a business website that gives regular details of traded resources, as of Tuesday, August 18, gave the price of iron ore per tone as US$105.59, an amount far higher than the US$49.00 or $60.00 charged between 2015 and 2016.

The company has not reemployed the laid-off workers despite having hired many new employees, according to an investigation by the Ministry of Labor in January of this year. It said the subsidiary of the multinational steel giant, ArcelorMittal S.A., has hired more than 500 new workers since the 2015 and 2016 layoffs and has proposed to expand its operations to create a thousand more jobs.

The chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal, Scott Lowe, had earlier acknowledged the company’s obligation to the redundant workers but said it cannot do anything amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The company remains willing to resolve the matter in line with those discussions in due course,” Lowe tells the Daily Observer in an email interview. ArcelorMittal Liberia understands that the COVID-19 crisis facing Liberia, its people, and business has been given priority and there has been some delay in documenting the outcome.”

Nimba County electoral district #2 Representative, Prince O.S. Tokpah, told the Daily Observer on August 17 that though he was not in Nimba when the aggrieved redundant workers were planning to stage their protest, he was quite aware that the company owes them and has reneged on settling its obligation with them.  “I am not there, but I know for sure that the company owes them and has not settled its obligation with them.”

The aggrieved redundant workers have had this plan long ago to disrupt activities of Mittal if it does not meet its obligation with them.  In an interaction with the Daily Observer earlier, the men all sounding in furious tones reflecting an angry mood said they would take to the railroad to block the train from carrying iron ore, and if the government will come in, they are willing to die and the government should get ready to kill them.  In the latest protest, they took with them a casket and laid on the railroad with some stumps to block the rail.

Arki Cisco told the Daily Observer that they will remain there until their plight is addressed, and if the government makes any attempt to harm them, there will be a reciprocal action from them and Mittal will be the victim.  As the men were planning the protest that began on August 18, the Corporate Communication Manager of ArcelorMittal, Amanda Hills was contacted through an email, but she has not responded since she received the August 17 email.

7 COMMENTS

  1. These so called peaceful protesters (Redundant Workers) are breaking the law (stopping the free flow of commerce and commuters). The police should ask them to move or be removed forcefully from the train tracks! You cannot have laws without law enforcement!!

    • Does the Liberian government expect to entice foreign investment with these labor issues? These matters are clearly hampering efforts to induce foreigners to risk monies expecting huge rewards in the future. Which investor would plow millions into a hostile environment that scares aware corporations that are willing to become relevant partners in the success of the economy? We need to imitate the model set by Rwanda and Ghana that has produced the most productive economies in Africa since the early 1970’s when Nigeria exploded on the international scene.

    • It is very easy for you to say all your BULLSHIT, while living off the sweat and death of Martin Luther king. It is easy for you to say that BULLSHIT, while living off the sweat and struggle and death of Malcolm X and others who made and paved the way for you who just arrived in the United States to have a not good, but decent job and live. No one handled down to the negro what you are enjoying today in the US. The law was used against the negro demanding to be treated as citizens decently same as you are requesting that the law be used against the nation’s citizens demanding their rights. Now, you Mr. Scott can take your standard of living for granted in the US without paying an ounce of sacrifice. Others paid that price for you. Easy to say that Bullshit.

  2. Where are the county officials in all of this? Or don’t they realize any correlation between the operations of this company and the strong economy and growing population of Nimba? Perhaps when this company gets fed up with this lawlessness and packs up and leaves, then they’ll see the light. Hopefully it’s not too late by then. Let them ask the citizens in Bomi, for example, or Mano River what it means or feels like living alongside a silent mine. Must be the “GIGO” effect, I guess. Oh well.

  3. When the pair of shoes is not on your foot, you don’t feel the pain as the guy who is wearing the shoes.
    I hereby beg some Liberians to comment on issues they are cognizant of, and not just speak or write rubbish because of freedom of speech.
    If you do not know, know today that our country Liberia is ruled by swindlers, gangsters and hoodlums who care less about the country and the people but their pockets and immediate families.
    The outgoing and current Liberian rulerships are among the most unpatriotic in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

    During a time of Force Majeure, like during the time of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in our country then, a company reserves the right to lay off some workers to ensure continuity of activities.
    At the end of such event of Force Majeure, the company must rehire those workers immediately to guarantee their livelihoods.
    However, the company may decide to use such occasion to part with some (problematic) workers. In such a case, the latter must receive a severance package.
    In the case opposing AccelorMittal and the aggrieved workers, such package has NEVER been paid to the redundant workers for more than 6 years now.

    Why, dear God? Why should our governments always be prompt to serve the interests of foreigners at the detriment of our people?
    It’s better for AccelorMittal to pack and leave instead of exploiting our people by paying them meagre and derisory pay without regards for basic unalienable rights of the (Liberian) human race. When will this too come to an end? Why do people shuffle to be elected and fail to meet the basic needs of their fellow compatriots?

    After every storm, there is a rainbow; no matter how long it takes to show up!

  4. There are too many aggrieved young men and in other cases, young women, without jobs throughout the length and breadth of Liberia. It is sad to say that most of these young people are not trained in the technical areas that will make them attractive to government and private businesses for gainful employment in the many technical fields that a developing nation like Liberia gravely needs.

    Healthy young men and women are the nation’s human resources that the country is blessed with. All that is needed for most of these citizens of Liberia is training in the various disciplines in the technical and community colleges built in our counties. Liberia is in need of construction workers, electricians, electronic technicians, auto mechanics, heavy duty mechanics, carpenters, laboratory technicians, para-medical technicians, painters, bricklayers, professional drivers, trained private security personnel, trained teachers, trained farmers, trained tailors, nurses, plumbers, and I could go on and on and on! These expertise are needed not only in Monrovia but throughout the Republic of Liberia for development!

    These are the lost ideas and platform of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) Party. A party of, for, and by these very young Liberians that were known as the grassroots when the party was in the opposition for thirteen (13) long years! It is time to deliver for them and the country. The long coveted presidency of the nation has been won since October 2017. There is no more room for excuses why the grievances of these young people and, yea, the Republic of Liberia, are not being priorities in national decision making of the first CDC Government!

    There are so many aggrieved veteran CDCians. Just to name a few, Isaac Vah Tokpa, and yesterday, Joshua Sackie, have taken their disappointments and frustrations in the open to the press and to the sidewalks of Monrovia. Other brilliant and enterprising CDCians who have been forgotten and side tracked by George Weah and his present government, have decided to be low keyed in order to avoid any more trouble for an already struggling CDC Government, their beloved CDC.

    There are innumerable jobs, private and government, that are still waiting to be occupied. All that is needed is: 1. Calling back the true architects and brains of the CDC Party into decision making, 2. Get these young CDCians off the streets and on the railway tracks, into vocational schools for useful training, 3. Do what is necessary to truly open up the country for good and better investers to help build the country.

  5. Erratum: The word should be “prioritized” – Paragraph three, second to the last line, second to the last word.

    Thanks.

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