Redundant workers of ArcelorMittal Liberia have agreed to cut off their protest actions against the company and resume work as the management has promised to reinstate them to the workforce as well as pay employee benefits, a release from the Ministry of Internal Affairs has said.
According to the release, the decision was reached following the intervention of Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf on Thursday, November 14, 2019, in Ganta, Nimba County, when he brokered a peace deal between the two parties.
An Internal Affairs Ministry’s press release said that the meeting, called by Minister Sirleaf, brought together the leadership of the protesters, representatives of ArcelorMittal management, and Nimba County Superintendent David Dorr Cooper, with each of them making significant inputs.
Early Thursday, protesters in Grand Bassa and Nimba counties set up roadblocks on the train track which the company uses to transport iron ore from Nimba County to the port of Buchanan, in demand of their benefits or reinstatement to the workforce.
Kingston Nyandibo, head of the redundant ArcelorMittal employees, said in a meeting that the workers and some of their family members embarked on the protest “because all efforts aimed at addressing their plights with the management have failed.”
Nyandibo informed Minister Sirleaf that those affected include 769 workers, categorized as 363 employees, 366 contractors, and 40 others who were considered “illegally dismissed.”
According to the protesters’ leadership, their redundancy was effected in 2015 and 2016 due to a drop in prices of iron ore on the international market, with an understanding that the company would recall them if prices rose again.
“Instead, when prices improved beginning 2017, the company chose to hire a new batch of workers, which was in total disregard to the redundancy clause,” said Joseph G. Kaye, a spokesperson of the protesters.
Kaye said they have been pursuing the matter with the company since May 2018.
But Marcus S. Wleh, Head of Government Relations assigned with Arcelormital, has meanwhile appealed to the protesters to grant a two-week period for the company to sort out the relevant documentations that would lead to finding a permanent and amicable solution to the problem.
Also, Minister Sirleaf assured that he will work with other government entities, including the Ministry of Labor and National Bureau of Concessions, to resolve the impasse.
Based on Minister Sirleaf’s intervention, Nyandibo promised to immediately communicate with his colleagues as well as travel along the train track, pleading with his colleagues to remain calm and abort all protests.