GVL Workers Adamant on Strike -Despite Grand Kru Caucus Plea

By:  Henry N. Kolenky 

GRAND KRU: Aggrieved workers of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) remained adamant to continue their strike action for some days now to press home their demands despite the intervention of the legislative caucus from Grand Kru County represented by the Chairman, Senator Numene T. H. Bartekwa and Representative Nathaniel N. Bahway of Electoral District 1 and have thus rejected the idea of signing any resolution to broker peace for their return to work.

The meeting to broker an amicable resolution was held in Nawaken on and  brought together aggrieved workers of GVL, its workers Union, affected Communities, local authorities, women, elders, youths, Representative from the National Beurol of Concession, GVL CEO, the District Representative and  the County legislative caucus Chair amongst others.

The dialogue was aimed towards addressing the plight of the aggrieved workers following their ongoing go-slow actions amidst thirteen count documents presented against the management of Golden Verolum Liberia (GVL) by the workers.

The thirteenth counts included among other things the activities of the  SAAR and SUNU insurance companies, increment of housing allowance, good health care system, Housing facility, education of dependents of employee, transportation allowance, 100% Payment for bikes for staffers, confirmation of unconfirmed employee,  among others.

Reading out the counts, Isaac Dweh, spokesman of the aggrieved workers said, SAAR insurance company which is  for Field Workers has allegedly received about 25,000 USD  or (4.6million LD) from 1000 field workers since July 1, 2018 up to present and the insurance company is  purposely for death and accident but there have been several accidents but nobody has benefited including some of their friends who have died and sadly their families haven’t received benefits from SAAR insurance company.

Though, they have written many communications from individuals to GVL management calling for the cancellation of the contract for SAAR insurance company in accordance with article 19.4 of the 2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which states “any individual employee may withdraw from the insurance plan by advising the company in writing and the company shall honor their withdrawal request”; but the company has refused.

Similarly, SUNU Insurance Company which is for Staff and the staff of GVL Grand Kru 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 spokesman of the aggrieved workers pointed out that they as staffers of Grand Kru have understood that SUNU Company is a scheme designed by management and her cohorts to exploit them despite USD$ 12 being collected every month and there are no records of beneficiaries.

He disclosed since they and the company entered into an agreement, the company has taken over 20,000 USD from staffers with nothing in return despite the tragedies that befell staffers, adding such company can’t keep taking their salaries and the management of GVL should stop deducting money from the salaries in the name of SAAR and SUNU companies because the two insurance companies are not in their interest and they will seek an insurance company with good policy and voided of maltreatments

He mentioned that the company has Jeopardized the health activities because article 10.1 of the concession agreement which in part states “..the investor shall construct or cause to be constructed and operated at least one centrally located fully operational estate doctor hospital with basic facilities within ten(10) years”.. and article 18.4 of their 2019 CBA also obligates the company to provides a “medical facilities as per the government of Liberia District Clinic Standard”

But alleged that the company self-proclaimed hospital don’t even have a scale to test weigh neither malaria test kit, essential drugs and no physician and medical doctor causing employees and their dependents to walk from Division 4&5 for treatment or sometime go to Behwan and other Clinics for malaria checker and other skin diseases test because their clinic don’t have a lab and its technician.

He said though, the company promised to have provided health care service for its employees but lacked standardized health services like provision of essential drugs, establishment of a lab, physician, fully functional midwifery wardroom, Visitation of VMO regularly and ambulance for patients.

Employee Dweh disclose that out of 100% only 1% which are  senior staffs are entitled to housing and 99% which are of Field workers don’t despite, the company have promised to construct housing unit for its employees but the construction of the housing is long overdue causing  99% of their field workers in Garraway estate  and other estates to be renting outside of  the  company camp and the company is only giving mere 10USD which is not equivalent to the value the houses the 1% are domiciled.

“For instance, the 1% abode contains a flush toilet bathroom, a kitchen, two bed rooms, a big living room, and most importantly a 24/7 electricity and pipe borne water. Unarguably, the cost of rent for a GVL apartment when commercialized will be at 60-80USD monthly.

“So we are asking the company since they don’t want to build us housing, let them increase our housing allowance which is 10USD to 45USD

He explained since the singing of the concession agreement which gives GVL an option to construct  schools and allot 25,000USD annually for adult illiteracy and vocational training  but wherein such construction is not possible, it is noted that they should invest in local existing schools (private or government schools within developed areas) and provide free transportation for a distance more than 1 mile away from dependents’ home but it’s obvious today because that was only done in 2019 only when workers have  received 30USD. But urging the company to  increase their transportation and School fees to one hundred United States Dollars (USD$100) for each employee eligible dependent beginning this AY 2023/2024 and maintain a functional adult illiteracy and vocational school

The aggrieved workers said despite the hard work and services, the company has failed to increase their salary 25% and even change their date of  payment 7/8/9 since  2012-2013.

They added that despite the delay of salary, the company allegedly collect Union Due which should should be given account because union due is not only met for pocketing and purchase of personal luxurious houses and cars as is mainly done by their current union administration, it’s intended to help and facility others work of the union but even our workplace representatives have not received their stipend over 8months.

Though the money can pay stipends for our workplace representative and other administrative costs and  the balance can even be used to provide loans to workers who are in need and said money is also capable of constructing a decent resting place which can contain an ice box(freezer) including television.

Isaac pointed out  that the workers understand the mediation between the management and them because the presence of GVL has impacted their lives in some positive way but they  are compelled to inform the Grand Kru Caucus about some of the bad labour practices being exhibited toward them.

The aggrieved workers spokesperson continue that they’re fully cognizant that dialoguing for a resolution is the most ideal methodology, but the management of Golden Veroleum Liberia ( GVL)  failure to do the right thing and such will increase their go-slow actions..

For his part, Grand Kru County legislative caucus Chair Numene T. H Bartekwa said although the workers were so angry but for accepting to listen and dialogue with the company, it has shown some level of love and regards for the County official and company.

According to him, it’s unfortunate to hear that the management of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) has not addressed the plights of the workers knowing how damaging it’s for workers to continue their go-slow actions.

“So my people I have listened to your plights and that’s why Representative  Bahway and I have come to say thank you for the orderly manner you have demonstrated doing this participatory meeting, though war can begin from the front line but can always ends on the conference table”, Senator Bartekwa said

“So what has been demonstrated by you people, the Grand Kru legislative caucus is proud of you, and we will never do anything that will go against your interest because you saw the way Representative Bahway and I were waking up, you  should know that we are here for you although, the company CEO isn’t happy but the truth should be told and your interest should be their concerns”.

The Grand Kru County  and acting caucus chair pointed out that though the County is  blessed with resources but its people can’t explore it because they’re not capacitated so they have   brought partners to help and these partners shouldn’t only explore but should assure the people benefits.

“So to say,  we have attached seriousness to this  as caucus and that’s why we have left Monrovia to come and listen to your plights and those one which aren’t CBA related should be addressed by the company and those one which are CBA should be handled by  the Ministry of labour and the Ministry of Agriculture thought they haven’t started work yet and once they started the both of us will sit on the round table to discuss these issue which are important and labor related” Senator Bartekwa said.

Senator Bartekwa said, though it’s establish by the workers but promise to engaged the GVL management to address those urgent one but called on the workers to be patient because collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a join discussion that needs the present of the Labour and Agriculture Minister including the union and the aggrieved workers head and can’t be done when the two Minister’s yet to start work.

The Grand Kru County legislative caucus Chair has cautioned the aggrieved workers to be patient and allow the Caucus and the government to handle what is affecting them.

“We have come Representative Bahway and i to resolve this in a civil and polite manner, so asking the GVL management to handle to plights that are urgent now and do the right thing for our people’s”

In response, Elvis H. Morris Vice President for strategy and stakeholders engagements said the company has listened to the plights of the aggrieved workers and will address those which are urgent.

“We are calling on you (Aggrieved employee) to do a letter with attached signatures for these insurance companies and once it’s done, we will immediately stop the payment of money to them..

“We promised to recondition the clinics and  provide more lab equipment and employ a midwife, that we will do here  and promised all the necessary work for you”, he said.

He maintained, the company is committed to addressing those ones which is urgent but caution the aggrieved workers to be patient because housing, education, salary increment among others are to be addressed through a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The Vice President for Strategy and Stakeholders engagements has cautioned the aggrieved workers to listen to the caucus and management of GVL because it’s good to dialogue rather than continue go-slow actions.

Despite these encouragement and promise, the aggrieved workers of GVL have refused to have signed a resolution which should have allowed them to go back to work Monday, February 19, 2024 while continuing their go-slow actions.


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