By: Rancy S. Teewia
APM Terminals, the company operating the multi-purpose Free Port of Monrovia, is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, as their staff have once again embarked on a go-slow action based on what the aggrieved workers term as bad labor practices and constant violation of the employees’ Handbook by management.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday October 1 ,2020 at the entrance of the National Port Authority, scores of aggrieved employees who were denied access into the NPA compound said through the Secretary General of the Workers Union Momo A. Sambola that they commenced working with the APM Terminals with a handbook, through which the conception agreement was signed between the management of APM Terminals and the Government of Liberia.
Mr. Sambola said after two years later the employees started to notice changes in the handbook against their interests, for which they were asked to sign but they refused to do so. “They changed some of the rules that talked about warning before suspension – one day suspension, two days suspension; they changed all to immediate dismissal, and as a result, some of our colleagues got dismissed because of the changing of these rules. The dismissed employees fought by all means to seek redress but they did not return to work,” Mr. Sambola stated.
Mr. Sambola noted that when they started to change some of the Handbook rules the management engaged the workers several times, but the workers told them that the best option was for management to invite the union leadership and inform them about the main issues and why they want to change these rules.
“You cannot change the policy and remove good laws for bad laws. Every agreement has to be amended positively; for instance if you were giving an employee $58 for food on the monthly basis, if you are changing the law it, the change should reflect improvement. At least, you cannot change the policy from $58 and bring it down. That’s not a good policy,” the APM Terminals Workers Union boss stated.
On the issue of the annual allowances and overtime pay, Mr. Sambola said those provisions are indicated in the workers handbook that employees shall receive the average of their salaries for 12 months excluding potential bonuses and overtime pay.
“But we don’t know how the management understands what they themselves wrote, because they have refused to pay the overtime from the beginning. We had a go-slow on 2018, and when we went to the Labor Ministry and the ministry advised that since management has gone wrong on some of these issues, they should go back and ratify things and pay 50% of the overtime,” Sambola disclosed
He said the Labor Ministry also told management to revert to the original handbook, but management has since refused to pay the employees their balance 50% overtime pay, while refusing to revert to the old handbook. “That alone is a violation and challenge to the government,” Mr. Sambola lamented.
Meanwhile, the APM Workers Union says another reason that prompted their go-slow action is management’s refusal to pay attention to one of their colleagues, crane operator Myers Nimely, who fell off on the Job and was taken to the Fidelity Clinic around the John F. Kennedy Hospital by management.
Mr. Sambola said Myers fell off while working on September 19, 2020 and got paralyzed. “His one side got paralyzed. If Myers was one of those foreigners, they would have taken him out of the country a long time ago,” Sambola lamented further.
The infirmed union member is said to be the best crane operator that APM terminal has globally, as he has won awards for his outstanding performance for the company.
“This is the man they call upon anytime they want to use him, but because he is a Liberian, they don’t want to take him out of the country to seek better medical attention,” Mr. Sambola said.
All attempts to reach the management of the APM Terminals proved futile as journalists were denied access to the facility.