Tension is said to be mounting at the operation site of ArcelorMittal in Nimba County, reportedly between the management and one of its sub-contractors, Engineers and Planners (E&P). E&P claims ArcelorMittal allegedly owes the subcontractor millions of United States Dollars for work it has done.
ArcelorMittal is one of the world’s largest iron ore mining companies and has a Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the government of Liberia.
E&P was contracted by ArcelorMittal to carryout the mining activities of the company. The two companies have been in the contractual agreement since 2011. The agreement comes to an end on the 31st of this month.
The situation is reportedly due to the alleged failure of the ArcelorMittal management to fully settle E&P for services rendered the steel giant. The situation has further exacerbated the mounting tension between some employees of E&P and the management.
The management of E&P had earlier promised their employees some benefits and bonuses.
The situation has left the fate of about 189 personnel, who are legitimate employees of E&P, in limbo. All of the employees concerned are Liberians.
Speaking to newsmen in Monrovia on Monday December 9, 2013, the Country Director of E&P, Madam Pamela Bowen, said the management as ArcelorMittal has failed to pay them since 2011, a situation that is inconveniencing the operation of her company.
According to her, this has led to her company halting all operations at the mining sites until the matter is adequately addressed.
She indicated that her company’s decision has been ignored by the management of ArcelorMittal, who are prevailing on E&P’s employees to go to work under threat of being fire, “though they (employees) are not under their jurisdiction.”
Madam Bowen said that several employees of E&P are now threatening to seize the company’s equipment or vandalize the company’s warehouse.
Some of the employees have even threatened to take severe actions against some senior staffs if their severance, bonuses, and other benefits owe them are not paid before the festive season, she disclosed.
“If not properly handled, the situation may escalate into a complete chaos as some of the employees of E&P have threatened to seize equipment belonging to the company,” Madam Bowen added.
She said a fraction of the 189 employees has now ignored the order of their original employer (E&P) to stop work and have now deflected to ArcelorMittal because of threats emanating from ArcelorMittal’s management.
She stated: “We have been having problem with some of our employees who decided to ignore our decision to halt every operation until the company can pay our money. They are still working without our consent. This technically means that they have ended all agreements they had with E&P.”
“What is troubling is that though they decided to disobey our order, but they are still demanding us to meet up with the agreements that we had with them which is not possible, because we were using our halt action to prevail on the Mittal Steel’s management to pay our money.”
“But they decided to listen to Mittal Steel rather than us who employed them. Some of the employees have threatened some of our senior staffs that if we don’t pay them before the Christmas, people are going to die; a situation that we don’t want to happen.”
ArcelorMittal responds: “To date, ArcelorMittal Liberia owes no past due payments to Engineers and Planners (E&P). Each month, E&P bills ArcelorMittal Liberia for services rendered in the previous month and those payments are paid as per terms of the contract. All payments are current to the contractor; however the contractor has requested an advance payment against their November bill, which ArcelorMittal Liberia has agreed to pay in good faith, once that bill is received.
“Absolutely no threats have been issued against any employee of Engineers and Planners, and furthermore, ArcelorMittal Liberia has no authority to hire or fire any E&P employee. The Ghanaian-owned company was contracted by ArcelorMittal Liberia in May, 2011 to carry out mining activities at the Tokadeh mine in Nimba County; however, ArcelorMittal Liberia’s management informed Engineers and Planners in October, 2013 that at the end of the current contract, which expires on December 31, 2013, ArcelorMittal Liberia will take over the running of the Mine as part of its localization strategy, which is consistent with the Company’s compliance to the MDA. We do not want to see any Liberian unemployed; therefore all Liberians currently employed by E & P will be given first and top priority to join ArcelorMittal Liberia as full time workers.
“We value our relationship and partnership with E &P and are open to further dialogue and discussions. As a Company we believe in full transparency as it relates to all of our agreements.”