Recent developments obtaining at the Robert International Airport (RIA), involving that airports’ workers union, management, and the Government of Liberia have given cause for the Liberian Senate to raise concerns as to who is in charge at Liberia’s only international airport. The last managing director at RIA was Ellen Corkrum, for whom the Government of Liberia has file extradition proceedings for her return from America to face trial for corruption.
The Senator’s concern was prompted by recent communication from the Senate Committee on Labor Senator Matthew Jaye in which the River Gee lawmaker brought to the attention of the Liberian Senate an unfolding event at the RIA, and requested that body for immediate intervention to help avoid labor unrest or confrontation at the country’s only international airport.
In the letter to his colleagues dated March 26, 2014, Senator Jaye informed them that on February 23, 2014, “I received a communication from the RIA workers union complaining that the Acting General Manager Mr. Richelieu A. Williams, and the recent board chairman Mr. Beyan Kesselly, who is also managing the Maritime Affairs without consultation with the workers union leadership, nullified the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was signed by the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Labor, the RIA Management and the workers union.”
According to Senator Jaye, the workers also complaint that the leadership of the union has been dismissed which contravenes the CBA as well, because the secretary and president of the union work full time to run the daily affairs of the union in every entity where the workers are unionized.
In furtherance of the above, “I immediately invited the management for conference on March 19, 2014 in order to find an amicable solution to the problem. But surprisingly Mr. Pro Tempore and distinguished colleagues, one Mr. Gibson K. Sackor of the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA) responded as the acting director general of the CAA, and not RIA, on the same March 19, 2014. Mr. Harris had turned over management of RIA to the Board of Directors since November 18, 2013.
Considering said response, the main question that remains unanswered is who is managing the affairs of RIA.”
The Labor Committee Chairman reminded the plenary that “the RIA is very strategic and there is a need to know who is in charge, and to also avoid labor unrest or confrontation at the country’s only international airport.
The plight of the RIA workers up to date is in limbo, as there is nobody to address their grievances.”
Concluding, Senator Jaye begged the indulgence of his colleagues and request that the chairperson of the board of directors of the RIA be made to appear before the plenary of the Liberian Senate to show reason why the RIA is being allegedly operated without a director general or acting director general since November 18, 2013.
Making intervention following the communication, Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias cautioned that the issue at RIA is an extremely important one and welcomed the suggestion that the committee dealing with it be expanded, saying the nature of the case also borders on the legal aspect of whether the bargaining agreement is being altered; and asked that the Judiciary Committee be given consideration.
For his part, the chair on the committee of Internal Affairs and Governance, Senator Armah Zulu Jallah warned that the issue that the RIA is without a managing director is not good news and that such kind of information should be managed properly, for the sake of the users of the port.
“The issue is not only important to the national security, but also to our economy. As it is, the Robert International Airport stands empty, so who is controlling affairs of the RIA? We must know to whom we go; whom do we ask questions.”
In their unanimous vote, the plenary agreed that the committees on Judiciary, and Labor be added to Transport so that the three can work together to deal with the issue once and for all and report to plenary soonest in two weeks.
The Liberian government recently wrote its United States counterpart for extradition of former RIA managing Director Ellen Corkrum after she mysteriously escaped from the country, following accusation that she embezzled hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars.
Corkrum has since launched a campaign of releasing secret recordings of her interactions with some prominent Liberian government officials, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The United States Embassy near here has meanwhile, confirmed that Liberia which enjoys extradition treaty with that country has filed for the extradition of Madam Corkrum.