– Civil Society Trade Union president says
The President of the Civil Society Trade Union of Liberia (CSTUL), Jefferson Knight, says the action by heads of government entities to discourage some staffs from joining a trade union membership is in total violation of Article 17 of the 1986 Constitution.
Article 17 states: “All persons at all times in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good to instruct their representatives to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances, and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.”
In his capacity as president of the Union, Mr. Knight said workers are being denied entry to any collective bargaining agreement, an act which violates the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention that was signed and ratified by the government of Liberia.
Article 1 of the convention says, “Workers shall enjoy adequate protection against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect to their employment.”
“Collective bargaining means an agreement in writing or writings between an employer and a trade union, setting forth the terms and conditions of employment or containing provisions in regard to the rates of pay, hours of work or other working conditions for employees,” an expert on labor matters explained to the Daily Observer.
Knight made the statement on Wednesday, September 25, 2019, during a one-day labor and trade union stakeholders’ gathering with members of the Senate Committee on Labor.
The meeting, held in Monrovia, was intended for lawmakers and members of the trade union to hear from the various work forces regarding the two labor laws, to include the Decent Work Bill of 2015 for workers within the private sector and civil service standing orders for workers in the public sector.
The exercise came days after members of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia threatened to abandon health facilities throughout the country over government’s failure to pay their salaries and other benefits.
Knight recollected that the gathering is in response to the outcome and recommendation from the three-day labor conference held in November 2018, which proffered several recommendations.
According to Knight, the Decent Work Act is amended to regulate both the private and public sectors so that civil servants can be allowed to exercise their rights to freely associate with trade unions of their choice.
“Government needs to honor its commitment to the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention, which mandates to collectively bargain and the right to equal treatment before the law,” Knight said.
Knight also said that the Liberia Labor Congress, with relevant civil society and trade union organizations, are working with the lawmakers to ensure that the amendment harmonization of the decent work act and the civil servants standing orders is realized.
In his interjection, the head of the Senate Standing Committee on Labor, Senator Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County, lauded members of the union, and call on them to engage the government for the full implementation of the Decent Work Act.
“I will ensure that my committee will work with relevant authorities in making the work force happy in Liberia,” Senator Johnson promised.
The senator urged the union’s leaders to remain supportive and to ensure that the union is being one of the best advocacies of workers within the country.
Senator Johnson used the occasion to plead with members of the health workers association to desist from staging protests or boycotting their respective jobs, but to seek an amicable solutions with the government so as to address their grievances.