Liberia: Lawmakers Express Regret over Ratifying APM Terminals Agreement; Say It’s No Good to Liberia
MONROVIA – APM Terminals continues to come under staunch criticism amid plethora of allegations ranging from bad labor practice to defrauding government of millions of revenue and unjustifiable imposition of tariff for services rendered at the port of Monrovia.
The action of the concession ratified in 2010 has resulted into Public admittance of regrets by some current members of the 54th who were in the 52nd Legislature and voted for the ratification of the concession, some terming it as the worst concession ever passed by the Legislature.
The latest outburst against the APM Terminals is coming from the Liberian Senate, where Bomi County Senator, Edwin Melvin Snowe termed the agreement with the port manager as the worst deal ever.
“The ill-treatment by APM Terminals toward our people is bad. APM terminal is the worst concession we ever passed in this Legislature. I regret ever voting for the ratification of it, and every time I hear about AMP terminal I get sick,” Senator Snowe vented.
Snowe was one of the lawmakers who voted in favor of the concession back then in 2010 when he served as Representative of District #6 Montserrado County and a ranking member of the House of Representatives under the Speakership of Alex Tyler.
He made the comments during a floor discussion about the existing conflict between the AMP Terminals’ management and some of its employees which was raised by Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County.
Senator Dillon expressed concern over the disrespectful posture of the AMP Terminals towards the Government of Liberia by its refusal to reinstate the dismissed employees amid the Labor Minister’s intervention.
Also joining in support of his colleagues, Senator Jeremiah Koung of Nimba County blamed the company’s actions to the many rights and privileges accorded it in the agreement.
“The law gives too many leverages to APM Terminals. It gives them the right to change the tariff at any time and worse of all this concession cannot be amended until 25 years. If there is a way to amend that law, let’s do it now,” Koung said.
Last April, the Ministry of Labor ordered the APM Terminals’ management to reinstate effectively immediately, the 24 suspended workers with all rights and privileges appertaining to the exercise of their respective functions, as is enshrined in their respective employment contracts.
The Ministry also lifted the suspension on the Dock Workers Union (DOWUL) and restored all of its rights under the Labor law of Liberia. However, APM terminal is yet to act on the order of the Ministry.
In the wake of the ministry’s mandate, the company has gone to the court seeking redress and interpretation of the ministry’s mandate and using all the leverages given them by the act creating the APM Terminal.
Workers’ Go-Slow Action
In September of 2020, some aggrieved workers of APM Terminals staged a go-slow action with the support of their mother union (Dock Workers Union of Liberia – DOWUL) which lasted for three days.
According to the aggrieved employees and DOWUL, there were some unresolved issues which the management of APM Terminals continued to ignore, among them include unpaid leave allowance, medical insurance, food allowance, Collective Bargaining Agreement, unilateral and frequent revision of the company’s handbook by management, extra (13th) pay, amongst others.
It is significant to note that the September 29th go slow was without violence and predicated upon growing tension between the APM management and the employees supported by their union, spanning back to several months appertaining to alleged “bad labor practice” on the part of the company.
Following months of interventions by the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry made a final determination into five of the six unresolved issues outlined in the letter of complaint by the aggrieved workers and their union.
Those issues include annual leave, handbook, medical benefit/insurance, collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and food allowance; all in favor of the workers and union.
On the issue of the Extra or 13th month pay which is the sixth unresolved issue, the AMP Terminal employment contract succinctly include a provision of an extra salary based on the salary amount of November of the year. The aggrieved workers complained that management was engaged in false accounting and by so doing denied them the extra month.
Deciding on the matter, the Ministry of Labor said that “Appertaining to the thorny issue of (extra month pay), a more in-depth and critical analysis of professional accountants is required in order to better understand the contention by either side, and above all, to ensure a fair and just determination of the issue.
“Accordingly, it is our decision that this issue be submitted to a Board of Arbitration of professional Accountant; each party nominating one accountant and the chair appointed by the Ministry of Labor or the Labor court”.
History of the concession
In October 2010 Liberia signed a 25‐year concession agreement with APM Terminals, allowing the company to operate the Port of Monrovia, having been named the preferred bidder for the port management and modernization project.
The formalized agreement for the port’s privatization resulted in the investment of US$120 million in the facility over the course of the contract term.