Reports from Yekepa, Nimba, say workers of ArcelorMittal Liberia who shut down the company’s operations and seized its assets for over a week in an illegal strike have now agreed to end the industrial action and return to work by Friday, May 19, 2023.
The latest development comes following meetings with authorities of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, the National Bureau of Concession and the Ministry of Labor.
The Hot Pepper’s sources say at a meeting held on Wednesday in Yekepa, members of the ArcelorMittal Liberia Workers’ Union were advised by the government representatives to end their illegal strike, present a grievance statement to the government, and give two weeks to allow the government to respond. The officials also called on the union to honor and respect the injunction against the strike imposed by the National Labor Court.
The workers’ industrial action came following the Labor Ministry ruling of April 11, 2023 into unresolved issues from the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). According to previous reports, AML exercised its legal option, 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.
Since then, the union has rejected nearly all attempts to return to work and negotiate, coupled with its flagrant disregard for an order by the Labor Court to halt the strike, and a similar directive from the Ministry of Labor.
On Monday, the union also set up makeshift roadblocks in Yekepa and threatened to flog anyone attempting to go to work. The union’s members also extended their blockade to independent contractors.
The National Labor Court cited the union to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for refusing to respect and honor the court’s directives. Reporters who attended the hearing (on Wednesday afternoon) said the judge postponed the contempt hearing to Friday.
It is expected that the shutdown of AML operations for over a week comes with a huge financial loss to the company and the Government of Liberia (GOL). The financial implications of the strike are being calculated.
ArcelorMittal was recently celebrated by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) as the biggest revenue contributor to the Liberian economy and has been named largest taxpayer for the last three years.
The concession pays taxes and royalties on time, and its County Social Development Fund contribution paid to Grand Bassa, Nimba, and Bong counties has been a lifeline for community development in these areas for more than 16 years now.
According to the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) report of 2022, thirty-nine mining companies reported a total of US$45,243,496 in tax revenues across four agencies of government.
Of the total amount collected in tax revenues from the mining sector, four companies (ArcelorMittal Liberia, Bea Mountain, MNG Goal, and Hummingbird Resources) accounted for US$41,726,305 or 92.2% of total sector revenues.
During the same period, payment information for 80 companies in the oil and gas, mining, forestry and agriculture sectors showed that sixteen companies (23.2%) represent 89.5% of tax revenues that came from the extractive sector. ArcelorMittal accounted for 43.7% of tax revenue, while Firestone Liberia (8.9%), Bea Mountain (7.9%), MNG Gold (4.9), and Sime Darby Plantation (4.7%) are key revenue contributors.