AML Workers’ Union Challenges Labor Court, Labor Ministry -Continues Illegal Strike In Absolute Defiance to Authorities
MONROVIA : Despite a ‘Stay Order’ issued by the National Labor Court for a return to Status Quo Ante and for an immediate end to the illegal industrial action by ArcelorMittal Liberia workers’ union, the Union, in gross defiance to the Labor Court’s mandate, has allegedly escalated the strike by blocking access roads to the mines and obstructing other non-striking workers from going to work.
On May 14, 2023, the Ministry of Labor also issued a directive calling for an immediate end to the strike and an immediate return to work by all employees of AML. This command has however fallen on deaf ears as the AML workers’ union appears to be challenging both the Court and the Labor Ministry’s authorities.
It is nearly a week since production and operations at ArcelorMittal Liberia were shut down by the workers’ union. Representatives of the union seized the keys to the AML mining equipment and have refused to surrender same.
In the Labor Court’s Stay Order, His Honor, Joseph M. Kollie, Resident Judge at the Court also ordered the return and release of all ArcelorMittal assets including keys to equipment seized by the workers’ union within the next twenty-four hours, an order which has also been disobeyed by the union.
The workers’ action came following a Labor Ministry’s ruling of April 11, 2023, into unresolved issues from the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). AML exercised its legal option and took an appeal before the National Labor Court and filed a petition for judicial review, consistent with the Decent Work Act. While the matter is before the court, the workers’ union began an unauthorized strike without notifying the Ministry of Labor or AML, as required by law.
Lawyers familiar with the case view the action of the workers as a flagrant violation of the Decent Work Act of 2015, regarding the legal processes for staging an industrial action.
Chapter 14 of the Decent Work Act says while all parties to a dispute have the right to strike, after thirty days of referral of the said dispute to the Ministry of Labor for reconciliation and still unresolved, a party wanting to strike must have given a 48-hour notice to the Ministry of Labor and the other parties to the dispute. However, this provision was violated by the workers’ union as neither the Ministry nor AML was notified about their strike.
The ongoing illegal strike by the workers, does not only project a negative image of the business environment in Liberia and scares away foreign investors, it also raises questions about the Government’s professed commitment to creating a favorable business environment and ensuring the protection of the interest and assets of investors, especially given the absolute disrespect to constituted authorities by the AML workers’ union.
When contacted, a management spokesman maintained that the strike was illegal and urged the Union to abide by the ruling of the Labor Court. The spokesperson maintained that the management of ArcelorMittal Liberia is fully aware of the issues raised by the employees and acknowledges the importance of addressing them.
However, the company has stated that it faces financial challenges that limit its ability to implement immediate salary increments. They have committed to engaging in further discussions and have already been addressing proven claims of disparity.