Gov’t Urges AML to Compensate Aggrieved Redundant Workers

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Flashback: Redundant former ArcelorMittal workers on the company's railroad in Sanniquellie

The government of Liberia has urged the management of Arcelor Mittal Liberia to compensate the aggrieved workers of AML, who were made redundant due to what the company claimed was a “shortfall” of the prices of iron ore on the world market.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Information, following discussions on Saturday, August 22, 2020, at the Ministry of Justice, the company is required to financially compensate the aggrieved employees. It was also established that the company did not give the right of first refusal to them before filling their positions.

The decision came on Saturday, following a tripartite meeting between the Government of Liberia, ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) and aggrieved workers who were made redundant by AML in 2015 and 2016. An agreement was reached to end the standoff which resulted into a blockade of the rail tracks that Arcelor Mittal operates.

All the parties in the argument, including the Ministers of Justice, Labour, and the Legal Advisor to the President led the talks, while the aggrieved workers were represented by their Chairman, Kinston Nyanebo, and several other representatives. Arcelor Mittal’s Chief Operating Officer, Johannes Heyatek, led an array of the company’s managers who were also present.

In a statement after Saturday’s meeting, AML thanked the government for its mediation efforts, while committing to negotiate a financial compensation package for “eligible redundant employees”. The company also requested the aggrieved workers immediately remove all obstacles blocking the railroad as of August 22, 2020.

The dispute between AML and the aggrieved former employees had been ongoing for several years, but it intensified on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, when several workers, who claimed to have been declared redundant illegally, staged a protest action by blocking sections of the Tokadeh-Buchanan railroad used by AML to transport iron ore from its mining sites in Nimba to the Port of Buchanan.

The recent action by the aggrieved workers brought the movement of trains to a standstill and obstructed all other activities around the railroad for almost five days.

That same Saturday, August 22, 2020, the mineworkers in Yekepa grounded all trucks that haul the ore from up the mine to Yekepa and parked them, putting stop to the contracting company’s workers and demanding that ArcelorMittal provide them Coronavirus hazard benefits as was allegedly done to the company’s expatriate workers.

This latest go-slow action began about three weeks, prior to the moving the equipment. During the three weeks period, the workers carried tags on their working clothes as a warning, demanding for “COVID-19” hazard allowance.

In a response to the workers’ demand for hazard allowance, the company, through its Communication Manager, Amanda Hill, said the company confirmed that the ability of employees to receive hazard pay as a result of a pandemic such as COVID-19 depends on the letter of Liberia Labor Law, in which there is no such provision or requirement.

“Therefore, we clarify that a determination for payment of hazard benefits to our workforce due to the Coronavirus pandemic has not been made and that none of our staff, be it local or international has received hazard benefit,” she said in an email dated on August 6, 2020.

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