Monrovia – The National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWAL) and other Public Service Trade Unions have staged four major sit-in actions at both the Ministry of Justice and the Independent National Human Rights Commission since January this year and government of Liberia has pay absolutely no attention to their main concerns.
The Affiliates of Public Service International (PSI) presented petition to the Independent National Human Rights Commission of Liberia (INHRC) on January 18, 2017 and a follow up statement on April 18, 2017. They also presented a follow up statement to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on May 18, 2017 after their earlier presentation of the same petition on April 18, 2017 with no redress to their claims against the violation of their rights by the Government of Liberia.
The Public Service Workers Unions and their affiliates have been protesting what they term as “Anti-Union behavior of the Liberian Government the dismissals of Union Leaders, George Poe Williams and Joseph S. Tamba of NAHWAL and Melish P. G. Weh and Jayce W. Garniah of the RIA Workers Union (RIAWU), the refusal to grant NAHWAL its Union Certificate of Recognition and the suspension of the collective bargaining agreement of RIAWU” among others.
Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution states that “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations”.
On the four occasions of the submission of the petition to the Government Parastatal responsible to provide justice for the Liberian people; the trade unions were promised redress and to no avail since.
Two Divergent Labor Laws in the Country
The Government of Liberian operates two labor laws in the Country – The Civil Service Standing Order for the Public Services and The Decent Work Law.
The Civil Service Standing Order is very silent on workers forming trade unions in the country while the Decent Work Law encourages massively the establishment of trade unions in the private sector.
Appearing at the March and May 2017 Sit-in actions at the Ministry of Justice, the PSI Affiliates in Liberia call for a single and comprehensive law in Liberia; “Therefore, we call for the abolition of the Civil Service Standing Order, the inclusion of civil servants and Maritime Workers in the Decent Work Act”.
The United States Department of State Human rights Report 2016 also pointed out the violation of Public service workers rights; “The law provides workers, except public servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, the right to freely form or join independent unions of their choice without prior authorization or excessive requirements”.
The Civil Service Standing Order was signed by the President on December 28, 2012 replacing the Orders issues on May 25, 1983 during the Military Junta of Samuel K. Doe following the Coup d’état in 1980 toppling the government of William R. Tolbert.
ILO Conventions C87 and C98 Ratified But Continuously Violated Locally
International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87, which covers the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and C98 that covers the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively have been ratified by the Liberian Government but actions denying union status to its employees is a flagrant violate of such convention.
“Contrary to the fact that the Government has ratified the ILO Conventions 87 and 98, it refuses to put these international regulations into practice and has made it illegal for public servants to get organized and form or join a union who represents their rights”; exclaimed George Poe Williams, Secretary General of NAHWAL, last Thursday as he presented a follow up petition of the statement read by Jefferson Knight, director of the Human Rights Monitor for The United Methodist Church of Liberia on March 20.
The statement delivered at the Ministry of Justice also frowned on the violation of the rights of teachers in the public sector; “We equally condemn in the strongest term the mass dismissal of teachers including the deletion of active teachers and education workers names from the MOE payroll for those they claim did not do their Biometric ID Cards whereas majority of the NTAL local and National Executives presented their correct credentials but were not allowed to take their Biometric ID cards even though the NCCL recommendations to halt dismissal and reinstate those who were dismissed during and after the mediation process are still on the President’s desk for implement action since October 31, 2016”.
Like was done at the Ministry of Labor, the Civil Service Agency, the Independent National Human Rights Commission twice and earlier at the Justice Ministry, the statement was received by Mr. Watler B. Skinner, Senior Administrative Officer of the Deputy Justice Minister for Administration, Cllr. Wheatonia Dixon Barnes, who received the first petition with an excuse and absolutely no redress.