Editorial: The Illegal Strike By The ArcelorMittal Liberia Workers’ Union
THE ON-GOING ILLEGAL strike by the ArcelorMittal Liberia Workers’ Union not only projects a negative image of the business environment in Liberia and scares away foreign investors but 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 of constituted authorities by the AML workers’ 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.
THE NATIONAL LABOR Court, His Honor, Joseph M. Kollie, Resident Judge at the Court, issued a stay order for 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 not been obeyed by the union.
DESPITE THE NATIONAL Labor Court’s stay order for a return to status quo ante and 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.
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.