3 – Regular violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Liberia

The ITUC affiliate in Liberia is the Liberia Labour Congress (LLC).

Liberia ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1962 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1962.

In practice

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Transit authority workers’ strike declared illegal, union threatened21-08-2021

The Liberian government declared a strike by staff at the Liberian National Transit Authority (NTA), organised by the NTA Workers Union, illegal. The staff walked out on 21 July 2021 after working for four months without pay. Many demonstrated outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also the site of the temporary office of the president.
The Minister of Labour held its parent organisation, the United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL), responsible for allowing the strike to go ahead and threatened to withdraw its registration certificate if a strike were to reoccur. According to the minister, any protest action should take place on the premises, and taking it to the seat of government suggested the strike had a political motive.
The strike was not in vain, however, as the Minister of Labour imposed a settlement including the payment of one month’s arrears, with 50 workers getting two months, and ordered the NTA to comply with the collective agreement. The NTA was given three months to pay the arrears.

Dockworkers suspended for going on strike07-05-2021

Dockworkers remained out of work for seven months after the management of APM Terminals Monrovia (APMT) suspended 24 employees and locked them out of the company’s facilities in October 2020 following their protest action over working conditions. With support from the Dock Workers Union (DOWUL), notably their leader Jackie Doe, workers had been demanding better working conditions, including unpaid leave allowances, medical insurance and food allowance. Concerns were also raised over working hours.
The struggle went on for several months, with many other workers supporting their suspended colleagues and echoing their demands. More strikes were threatened but did not take place.
On 21 April 2021, the Liberian Ministry of Labour announced its decision that APM Terminals had “failed to prove its accusations against the 24 suspended workers” and called for the workers to be reinstated. APMT had been under fire for ignoring earlier calls by the ministry to reinstate the workers and respect Liberian laws.
APMT still refused to reinstate them, and on 4 May another letter from the Liberian minister of justice, Frank Musa Dean, was sent, warning APMT to comply immediately and unconditionally with the government’s numerous determinations.
On 7 May, APM Terminals Monrovia finally conceded and the workers returned to work, on the clear understanding that the government expected APTM to seek to resolve all their concerns.

Liberian health workers striking for better conditions face threats and intimidation 28-11-2020

Members of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) called for a two-week strike further to the government’s refusal to honour the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with NAHWUL. Furthermore, the government has ignored NAHWUL’s call for hazard pay for all health workers, benefits for worker-victims of COVID-19, supplies of PPE, and medications at all public health facilities.
Paramount in the MOU are the certification of NAHWUL within 60 days of the signing of the MOU and inclusion of the union in social dialogue on all matters affecting the workforce, including a discussion on a salary increment for health workers in 2020/2021.
During the negotiations culminating in the two-week strike, the government neither acceded to these outstanding agreements, nor did it find any durable solutions to the issues tabled before it by the union leadership. Instead, the president of Liberia addressed the trade union delegation and threatened their lives, including threats of arrests of the union leadership and termination of the services of striking workers.

Labour ministry suspends dock workers’ union certificate 05-10-2020

The trade union certificate of the Dockworkers Union of Liberia (DOWUL) at the National Port Authority of Liberia was suspended by the Ministry of Labour pending the outcome of an investigation into an alleged report of instigating violence at APM Terminals in the Free Port of Monrovia.
According to the labour minister, Moses Yarkpazuo Kollie, the Ministry received calls from the management of APM Terminals informing them of a go-slow strike action from union leadership and calling on the Ministry to intervene. Meetings between DOWUL leaders, APM Terminals management, and the Ministry of Labour were not successful. In the days following, DOWUL organised the said strike action in the Free Port. The Ministry of Labour retaliated by suspending the union’s certification. The Ministry maintains that the suspension of DOWUL’s certification is in accordance with section 36.5 of the Decent Work Act (DWA) of Liberia.

Firestone Liberia does a U-turn and dismisses union leaders31-07-2019

The position of rubber plantation workers at Firestone Liberia, which had improved with the signing of a first agreement with the company in 2008 after more than a year-long struggle, has been deteriorating again since the end of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency. The company has since been increasingly turning its back on the workers. According to the Agro-Processing and Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL), the company is reneging on its promises and trying to undermine the union by unfairly dismissing its leaders. The company, which is not only the largest rubber producer in the world but also the largest private employer in Liberia, used the fall in world rubber prices to defend its decision to make mass dismissals, initially sacking 200 out of its 6,200 employees on 16 April 2019, followed by another 400.

Unfair dismissal of union officials by Firestone Liberia condemned09-11-2018

Liberian unions are condemning the unfair dismissal of two union officials of the Agricultural, Agro-Processing and Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL), Abel Ngigie and Edwin Fallah, by Firestone Liberia.
The AAIWUL chairperson and the grievance officer from the local branch of Firestone Liberia’s rubber plantations were dismissed for organising.
The union has called on the workers to marshal a united front in the face of intimation as the impending collective bargaining agreement negotiations approach. Industrial relations between the workers and Firestone Liberia have been turbulent. In August, workers went on strike to have the wages of rubber tappers increased from US$8.36 to US$12.50 per day. The company is yet to meet the workers’ demands. In October, the company retrenched 76 workers from its rubber wood factory.

Salala Rubber Corporation bans political activities on 22 000 acres of its land 28-03-2017

The management of Salala Rubber Corporation has issued a ban on all political activities at its premises prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections to take place in October 2017. The company occupies about 22,000 acres of land in an area with a large voting population which includes the constituency of a current Speaker of the House of Representatives, endorsed by the Salala Agricultural Workers Union (SAWU). The company has reportedly threatened to sack any worker caught discussing politics on the job.

Government continues to deny reinstatement to union leaders dismissed in 2014 20-03-2017

On 20 March 2017, unions affiliated to Public Service International organised a sit-in action at the Ministry of Justice to demand reinstatement of the dismissed trade union leaders and the revision of the law that excludes employees of state-run enterprises and the civil service from the right to form a trade union. The general secretary of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) George Poe Williams and its president Joseph S. Tamba were dismissed on 18 February 2014 subsequent to a nationwide strike they led. Mellish P. G. Weh and Jayce W. Garniah of the Roberts International Airport Workers Union (RIAWU) were also dismissed, following their trade union activism. The government has taken no action to address the issue of suspension of the collective bargaining agreement signed with RIAWU and NAHWAL’s application for registration, which has been pending for over four years without any response from the Ministry of Labour.

Public and private sector workers denounce arbitrary dismissals of trade union leaders and Government’s refusal to register unions 03-06-2016

On 3 June, hundreds of civil servants, in collaboration with workers from the private sector, delivered a petition to the Ministry of Labour. The petition was signed by officials of the seven workers’ unions, including the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAH), the Roberts International Airport Workers’ Union (RIAWU), the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL), the National Private Sector Health Workers’ Union of Liberia, the Liberian Union of Non-academic Staff and Teachers, the National Trade Union of Public Service and Allied Workers, and the Civil Society and Trade Union Institutions of Liberia. The petition specifically raised the issue of the dismissal of the NAHWAL’s General Secretary, George Poe Williams, and its President, Joseph S. Tamba, who were dismissed on 18 February 2014 following a strike action they led, as well as the dismissal of Mellish P. G. Weh and Jayce W. Garniah of the Roberts International Airport Workers Union (RIAWU). The petition also raised the issue of the suspension of the collective bargaining agreement signed with RIAWU and NAHWAL’s application for registration, which is pending for over three years without any response from the Ministry of Labour. Although Liberia ratified both ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98, employees of state-run enterprises and the civil service still cannot form a trade union.

National Alternative Voice of the Voiceless dismissed 20 health workers 28-02-2014

In February 2014, the National Alternative Voice of the Voiceless (NAVOV) dismissed 20 health workers with immediate effect for having participated in a strike action. Workers had gone on strike to protest against unjustified wage deductions for the past three years. Previously, management had also threatened to revoke professional licenses of health workers who intended to go on strike action.

Unions not recognised08-08-2012

The company Lone Star GSM Communications Corporation (LCC) has not permitted workers to elect trade union representatives since 2010. Management is pressuring workers to establish a workers’ association instead of a trade union. Workers pleaded with management several times to recognise their right to establish trade unions and warned that they would engage in strike action.

Patchy respect of rights by government and multinationals31-12-2011

The government’s record on including the Liberia Labour Congress (LLC) in tripartite forums has been patchy. At the same time, it has not managed to prevent big multinational companies from flouting union rights. Arcelor Mittal began operations in Liberia during the year with a very welcome multi-million dollar investment, after agreeing to give a certain number of jobs to Liberians. It quickly gained a reputation for unfairness and poor working conditions, however, by subcontracting its jobs to other companies paying below the minimum wage and providing no job security. In June 2011, the Arcelor Mittal Workers’ Union threatened that the company’s first shipment of iron ore would not go ahead unless the company released pay scale figures and facilitated collective bargaining. The company finally launched collective bargaining talks with the union at the end of November.

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