Liberia: COVID-19 Forcing Companies to Scale-down Workforce

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Labor Minister Moses Kollie said the government has urged the private sector to pay all of its nonessential staff 50% of their regular wage, while the government is paying all staff full salary and benefits during the COVID-19

Monrovia – Minister of Labor, Mr. Moses Kollie, says companies in Liberia are being forced to scale down their workforce due to the difficult business climate being caused coronavirus in the country.

He said income generation has been a major challenge since the outbreak and has, therefore, led to the redundant of several employees.

“The labor sector is being affected because it represents the human factor in producing goods and services of the economy. Many employers are complaining to sustain pre-COVID-19 wages, while employees complain about threats,” Minister Kollie said.

These complaints, according to him, resulted from the lack of a provision in the current Decent Work Act on temporary reduction that could help address some of the prevailing issues raised by workers at these companies.

The Labor Minister said, a National Tripartite Council Policy was drafted for employers and employees by stakeholders in the labor sector, which resulted to an amendment to the COVID-19 guide to help address the situation.

“The labor sector is being affected because it represents the human factor in producing goods and services of the economy. Many employers are complaining to sustain pre-COVID-19 wages, while employees complain about threats.”

– Moses Y. Kollie, Minister of Labor

Minister Kollie said the policy, among other things, calls for the suspension of any new discussion for collective bargaining and that all other bargaining before the end of March remains enforced.

The Labor Minister maintained that all employers pay nonessential employees 50 percent salaries and benefit beginning May 1, 2020.

Minister Kollie said this mandate is not extended to government workers, but people in the private sector.

“Paying nonessential workers 50 percent salaries and benefits does not cover state owned enterprises workers and employees, because government is paying all of its workers all salaries and benefits,” he averred.

Since the drafting of this policy, according to him, companies and some businesses continue to work in line said guideline, while other remain committed to paying all of their employees.

He continued: “Firestone has maintained 72 percent of its workforce at the tapping areas and estate department with 20 percent being declared nonessential. These include rubber purchase, administration and education department. GVL Liberia has redundant 10 percent of its workforce and maintained 90 percent in line with the Decent Work Act of Liberia. BEA Mountain has maintained 90 percent of its workforce and 10 percent redundant, Monrovia Braveries has maintained 70 percent of its worker and 30 percent redundant.”

In the same way, he further stated that seven workers at the Farmington Hotel were redundant, which he attributed to challenges faced as a result of the effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the airport sector in Liberia. The hotel is situated right opposite the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County.

On the other hand, he said ArcelorMittal, Liberia Agriculture Company and MNG Gold, among others, are companies that continue to maintain all of their staff, though issues relating to redundant of former workers at ArcelorMittal remains unresolved.

At the same time, Minister Kollie noted that as per the policy, those redundant would be immediately reemployed as full-time workers at their various places of work after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in Liberia.

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