At Long Last, Payment Begins for Ex-Bong Mine Workers

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Once again, the stage is set for the payment of former workers of Bong Mining Company (BMC) in the tune of US$4m.

After years of being bogged down in a quagmire (a sticky situation, almost akin to quick-sand) this step forward has returned smiles to the faces of this long-suffering group of workers that endure one roadblock after the other to finally find themselves at this point.

Most of the beneficiaries, now in their 60s and 70s were in the employ of the now-defunct German company, BMC, as of August 1990.

The over 1,800 former employees of BMC happily began receiving payment of their Severance and End of Service Benefits as of Monday, January 27, through the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), after putting off coming through with the payments on three separate occasions.

Doing the honors—of finally meting out justice to these now-desperate recipients—after almost a quarter of a century are members of a six-man payment team made up of auditors from the Ministries of Labor and Finance.

They include Momo Gray, Paymaster; Patricia P. Dixon-Dwalue and Boakai B. Kamara, auditors, as well as Edward Jallah, Security and Monitor, and Nathaniel S. Dickerson.

Seventy former BMC workers received checks on Monday; but, up to press time Tuesday evening, over 81 persons had been paid.

A team of reporters from the Daily Observer who were on the scene on Tuesday said unspoken joy enveloped the aged faces of those who picked up their checks. The remaining workers who were on queue showed justified anxiety, praying that their checks had not fallen amongst those that like a few others, had had their owners told to come back on Thursday or Friday for the next batch of printed checks.

Our reporter also learnt that only two branches, located on Ashmun and 9th Streets, were initially cashing Former BMC Workers’ checks on Monday; but beginning Tuesday, all the branches were empowered to cash the checks and put the recipients out of their misery.

In order to receive their checks, beneficiaries were required to affix their signatures to a ‘Release and Waiver of all Claims’ Document. This, in turn was acknowledged by authorized representatives from the Former BMC Workers and Ministry of Finance and attested to by the Labor Ministry.

The document registers consistency with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on November 27, 2013 between the Government of Liberia and the leadership of the Ex-BMC Workers that stipulates satisfaction on the part of the former employees, and that justice ‘had been done by them.’

“I understand and agree that the payment and receipt of the said amount is in full satisfaction of all claims that I have arising out of the Memorandum of Understanding executed with the Government of Liberia, that I will receive no further sums of money from the Government in connection with this matter, was the statement asked for by the payer.

I further confirm that I will not assert, demand, and sue for, or cause others to assert, demand, or sue for any additional claim against the Government its Ministries, Agencies and officials thereof, and that said payment constitutes final payment of Severance and End of Service Benefit owed by the former Bong Mining Company Workers,” the payees declared.

Addressing the question of recipients being represented by others because of one difficulty or the other, Mr. Taylor explained that: “Proxies for beneficiaries who are living but unable to come owing to illnesses or distances were required to bring a notarized document, while proxies for dead beneficiaries must bring a letter of administration from the probate court.”

Most of the beneficiaries, who received their checks, our team of reporters talked with, but begged to not mention their names, said they would invest in businesses and cars.

But the chairman of the ex-BMC workers committee, Mr. Larblah said he would invest in real estate.

Few weeks ago, Mr. Jerry Taylor, the Director of Debt Management at the Finance Ministry, who is also one of the delegates representing the Ministry, holding everything constant, payment was set for the 22nd of January but payment began a week later.

Mr. Taylor on behalf of the Finance Ministry expressed regret over the delay in making the payments, which he said was due to a number of reasons.

Some of the reasons he listed were the appropriation of the US$4million for the over 1,800 former employees, determining pay grade, and the validation of names.

Mr. Larblah named Pewee Mulbah, Joseph Freeman, and Edward Bokarie, as contact persons in Bong Mines; while Cooper Bernard and Charles Binda are available for those in Kakata.

It may be recalled the Liberian Government and Ex-BMC workers signed an MOU to pay US$4million out of the originally requested amount of US$8.9million. This brought a close to a decade-long chapter in the case of the former Bong Mines Workers and those who illegally settled on the abandoned properties of the company.

The deal was signed at the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday, November 27, 2013, with J. J. Larblah, chairman of the former Bong Mining company employees End of Service Benefits Committee, signing on behalf of the former workers, and Finance Minister Amara Konneh signing on behalf of the government.

The MOU signified the ex-BMC workers had waived the US$8.9 million to settle for US$4 million; ending the lengthy tussle between the government and the aged workers.

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