Striking Workers At Ministerial Complex Force Chinese Firm Into Paying Arrears
Monrovia – Authority of the Jiangsu Provincial Construction Group Company was forced to begin payment of its Liberian contractors February 14 after the contractors’ setup roadblock to demand their back pay.
Report by Edwin Genoway, Jr – [email protected]
The Chinese engineering firm is constructing Liberia’s ministerial complex in Congo Town which is a US$40 million project funded by the People’s Republic of China.
The company hired hundreds of Liberians as contractors to serve as helping-hands to the Chinese engineers.
The contractors were reportedly being paid a wage of US$6 per daily and were to receive US$2.50 per day as over time.
But based on a negotiation with the workers, it was agreed upon that the contractors be paid US$0.70 cent a day as over time.
But hell broke lose on Wednesday when the angry contractors demanded of their money by blocking the Tubman Boulevard – preventing the free flow of traffic for several hours.
Prince Quyon, spokesperson for the contractors, said the company has been paying deaf ears to their complaints, which led to their protest action.
“We had engaged them until we were tired and they told us since last week that they were giving us our money and they refused so we took the street,” Quyon told FrontPage Africa.
He said the company was obligated to only pay the contractors their overtime money but had been delaying.
“They owe some people eight months over time, while others supposed to get three, five or one year,” he said.
He said they were informed that their services were no longer needed at the ministerial complex project, so it was necessary that the company pay their arrears.
“Let them just pay us we will go, but they shouldn’t say they’re dropping us and our money cannot be paid. It’s wrong and we will resist that,” he said.
After witnessing the protest action from the contractors, the firm immediately organized a long queues, took names of the workers and verified names of contractors that were claiming benefits.
The Liberian National Police intervened and calmed the situation.
Several government officials also intervened to curb the tension
The Ministry of Labor then instructed the Chinese firm to start the payment of the contractors on the scene.
Honorable Welma Blaye-Sampson, the new assistant Minister of Labor for labor standard headed a team to the scene to calm the situation.
“We have engaged the company’s authority to immediately pay the people what they owe them, and when I came here along with my team I learned that they actually owe the people and I demanded that they pay them,” Minister Welma said.
She also warned against acts of violence as a remedy to solving problems and noted that the Ministry of Labor is prepared to protect the image of all Liberians in the employ of foreign nationals.
“That’s why we are here for, the people must be pay what the company owes them, and we will be here to ensure that,” she said, assuring that she would monitor the situation until all the contractors are justly paid their benefit.
After the intervention of the officials of government, contractors who were protesting were seen collecting their money from the company in a joyous mood.