Aggrieved GVL Workers End Strike Action -Amidst Signing of Accord by stakeholders

By: Henry N. Kolenky

GRAND KRU: Calm was finally restored at the concession sites of multi million Dollars Palm Oil Company Golden Veroleum Liberia GVL in Grand Kru County, Southeastern Liberia after stakeholders in the dispute signed a joint resolution to end the crisis at a brief ceremony held on Tuesday afternoon, February 20, 2024 in the conference room of the company in Garraway Estate near Weteken Township.

According to our reporter who covered the event, the Signing of the agreement brought together representatives of the GVL workers Union, the affected community representatives, local government officials, GVL management, civil society actors, the county Legislative Caucus and many people amongst others.

It can be recalled that Grand Kru county legislative caucus headed by its acting Chair, Senator Numene T. H Bartekwa and the County district#1 representative Nathaniel N.  Bahway arrived in the county on Friday February 16, and engaged in a two day long dialogue with aggrieved workers of the Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) on Saturday, February 17 and 18, 2024.

The day-long dialogue brought together aggrieved workers of GVL, its workers Union, affected Communities, local authorities, women, elders, youths, Representative from the National Bureau of Concession, GVL CEO, the district Representative and  the County legislative caucus chair amongst others. The dialogues were aimed to have addressed the aggrieved workers of GVL plights following their just ended eleven days go-slow actions admit a thirteen counts documents presented against the management of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL).

The workers had complained about SAA Insurance Company’s default and requested withdrawal.

It was resolved that all GVL workers who are covered under the SAA Insurance Company that want to leave should do a cover letter with their signatures, to enable Management to terminate the contract with SAA Insurance Company. It was also agreed that Management would refund the withholding payment from June 2023 to February, 2024 equivalent to US$40.00 due to default from the SAA Insurance Company to GVL workers who are covered under the insurance between now and March 2024.

Similarly, SUNU Insurance Company which is for Staff and the staff of GVL Grand Kru County has recognized the fact that every bike must be insured but refuses to accept the fact that an insurance company which no one has benefited from shouldn’t be imposed on them.

The authorities of GVL said SUNU Insurance Company is a third-party insurance company, Management hereby agreed to go for full coverage insurance policy, to enable both parties to benefit under the new policy. Management also agreed to underwrite the additional cost of the full coverage insurance policy. In order to benefit from the insurance policy, when an accident takes place, it should be reported by the employee with a police report attached.

Improvement of the clinic, with specific reference to LAB, provision of delivery Services and essential drugs which is count three against the management of GVL. It was agreed by Management that recommendations from the Visiting Medical Officer (VMO)/CHO of Grand Kru County Dr. Voyee Wreh will be considered within three (3) months period including construction of Placenta Pit and Incinerator to enable delivery services at the Garraway GVL Clinic, Installation of LAB Equipment and hiring of professional Lab Technician. Management reported that there are essential drugs purchased and available at the clinic; to be verified by the Caucus of Grand Kru County.

Under count four as was put forward by the aggrieved workers, they said no housing for 99% of field Workers. If housing is not provided, GVL must pay 45usd monthly per employee for a condition that may equate to existing houses. The company also agreed that housing is part of the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) discussion, and that action will be taken after signing of the CBA Within one (1) month the Grand Kru Caucus agreed to work with various institutions (GVL, GVL Workers Union, Ministry of Labor and County Authority) to follow-up on the signing of the CBA.

Workers complained that GVL should provide transportation and school fees (US$100.00) for each employee eligible for Academic Year 2022/2023 and onward.  They also demanded GVL to underwrite the cost for employees’ dependents who take their children to any school of their choice in all concession areas.

Management informed the Caucus and the workers that this is an ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) discussion.

However, considering the urgency of the workers’ request, Management agreed to pay the amount of US$80.00 United States dollars per employee whose children are outside of GVL School for academic school year 2023/2024, and suspends the GVL Education Support (GES) Program for the academic year 2023/2024. Despite the workers’ proposed deadline for March 16, 2024, Management concluded after their consultation as pronounced during the meeting to pay at the end of March, 2024 during salary payment period.

Salary/wages increment to 25% proposed as in CBA discussion, the concession agreed that salary increment is part of the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) discussion, and that action will be taken after signing of the CBA. Within one (1) month the Grand Kru Caucus agreed to work with various institutions (GVL, GVL Workers Union, Ministry of Labor and County Authority) to follow-up on the signing of the CBA.

Provision of quality Personal Protective Equipment PPEs in a timely manner, management reported that it has purchased quality PPEs whose distribution has started in Wedabo Estate and will continue in Garraway and other areas when workers resume work.

However, Caucus requested that follow-up be made by the team. The workers also alarmed the provision and improvement of transportation for workers security to be provided for security or equivalent in allowance. Reported that workers are granted unpaid leave or annual leave where transportation is not provided. Workers Transportation truck in Po River has been replaced with a hire truck, while other trucks in Garraway Estate have been repaired and ready for transportation of workers.  Additionally, tractors with shelters will be used in the case of bad road conditions and breakdown of trucks to facilitate workers transportation.

The resolution also covered the issue of 100% payment of the bike: (no deduction when employees are on leave) and exact sale price must be paid by workers and not prices above the purchase price. During the discussion, it was proposed by GVL Motorbike Scheme beneficiaries that beneficiaries pay 60%, while GVL Management pay 40% to settle payment of assigned motorbikes and management is expected to review the proposal from the bike beneficiaries.

GVL Management promised to provide copies of the bike policy and contract to the Caucus by either hard or soft copies. Management promised to conduct inventory alongside with aggrieved workers leadership and Union after which a determination will be made to repair or construct additional rain shelters when need be by effective March of this year.

Management requested the aggrieved workers leadership to submit the list of all unconfirmed employees as claimed by aggrieved workers for verification and action.

Management responded to confirmation in two categories of employees with genuine probation employment letters and employees without assignment letters, but have been acting in various capacities pending submission of unconfirmed employees listing by aggrieved workers leadership. Management is selective based on communication policy.

Therefore, the Caucus requested that Management provide a communication policy to enable the Caucus to make informed decisions on who is eligible for communication allowance and the management provided the policy. Management should be paying on or before the 7th of the following month. Most of the Salary delay is the result of the banks. To get money in such a huge quantity is difficult at times. Cash Movement is another factor. Another thing is the fact that the company for the past 8 months has not been shipping oil to sell. The past rainy season and bad roads are factors. So, money issues have been a problem.

Distribution of Scholarship Policy to the Communities GVL to distribute scholarship procedure packages to the communities and Caucus the company has already submitted to the Caucus and copies to be submitted to communities by Friday, March 23, 2024. The company has reaffirmed her commitment to meeting the employment target that will complete Hectare and employment reconciliation exercise to determine the gap in the employment.
Overall Estate GVL is in compliance with a 6/1 employment ratio-(-%)over employment. The management said when the employment ratio is over, the company will reduce employment to match hectares. Where employment ratio is less, GVL will replace or employ.

Meanwhile, former Assistant Superintendent for Development of Grand Kru County, Joe M. Sekpeh said the county administration and caucus have acknowledged most of the concerns raised against GVL by the citizens were legitimate, disclosing that for   which a resolution was signed following the two days dialogues

According to him, the local leadership is hopeful that Golden Veroleum Liberia will be committed to the implementation of the resolution reached by both the company, workers and affected communities. He expressed gratitude to workers and community members for adhering to their pleas by returning to work. At the same time the Management of the Company GVL lauded the efforts of the County leadership for their timely intervention and committed to fulfilling things that are outlined in the resolution for Workers welfare and improve Community benefits.

1 Comment
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