MONROVIA – The Management of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) has with immediate effect suspended and turned over to the National Security Agency (NSA) 39 of its employees, following the violent protest action staged at the airport in Margibi County recently.
Early this year, scores of aggrieved employees of the RIA staged a violent protest at the runways of the RIA, preventing passengers from boarding their respective flights in demand of the payment of their two months’ salary arrears and benefits owed them by the management.
The aggrieved employees chanted anti-slogans and held placards with inscriptions: “We are not asking for too much, only our benefits and two months’ pay; Outsourcing goes along with pay off, We deserve decent living too, among others.
Their action stemmed from the decision taken by the airport’s management to conclude an agreement with a foreign company for the outsourcing of the operations, security and other departments without given them their legitimate benefits, amongst others.
The incident drew the attention of the Ministers of Labour, and State for Presidential Affairs, and Nathaniel McGill and Counselor Charles Gibson, and scores of other high ranking government officials.
Minister Gibson claimed that the situation involving the aggrieved RIA employees and the management has been resolved.
He blamed the situation on the failure of the RIA management to fully communicate to the affected workers about the outsourcing of some departments at the facility in an effective and efficient manner.
Speaking when he visited the scene during the protest, Minister McGill said though the concerns raised by the employees were legitimate, their decision taken to stage a protest at the airport amounts to holding aircrafts “hostage”.
He said the management of the airport should have a plan to address the concerns raised if it is intending to outsource the operations of the airport.
Minister McGill emphasized that the aggrieved employees should have abandon their assigned tasks and responsibilities by laying down their tools or working gears as means of drawing government’s attention to their plights or concerns, instead of holding a foreign plane hostage.
“Your know the aircraft rules especially you the leader. When I call you and say remove the people from here and you say the aircraft will not leave- you are technically holding the aircraft hostage. What you did just now was wrong. When I called you and said move the people from the place and said you will not move the people until I come”, Minister McGill stated.
Threats of dismissals and punishment
“To hold a foreign plane hostage and you said it is not wrong, anybody who tells me that, I will punish that person. You know people missed their connecting flights because of your action. The other man is shaking his head; you shake your head I will let the people move you from here today; we will fire you today because you one of the bad person-and nothing you will do. This is a bad precedent and we should not be setting it”
He maintained that the employees’ action has the propensity of preventing international flights from coming to Liberia.
Minister McGill pointed out that government was suspending the takeover of the airport until the issues raised by the aggrieved employees are addressed.
But the latest suspension of the 39 employees including managers, supervisors, among others from the departments of security, ground equipment services, and flight operations shows that the situation at the RIA appears far from being over.
FrontPage Africa managed to obtain a list of the suspended RIA employees.
They include: Jeston B. Addy, Jr, Walker G. Dickson, Albert E. N. Quaye, Jonathan A. Momolu, James K. Parker, Jusu Sensee, Allain Haba, Chayette Pour, Francis W. Kollie, Patrick A. Sworh, Cyrus Yeamon, Wenwu Klayee, Helena M. Peters, James K. Flomo, Hinneh A. Dorbor and Johnson F. Saah.
Others are: Lind Yormie, Mildred Toe, Morris W. Dunn, Moses Gibson, Oretha Tamba, P. Augustine Brooks, Parsen K. Keller, Sallie D. Kollie, Susan J. Porter, Thomas F. Ballah, Trokon N. Soko and Aminata Trawally.
The rest are: Emmeth N. Brown, Abraham Keller, Ammie Johnson, Beatrice Kieh, Beatrice Y. Tamba, Edward S. B. Yarkpawolo, Catherine Dukuly Toby, Cooper G. Teahdeh, Daniel Taylor, George S. Darwolo, and Samuel B. Marshall.
A source has hinted that the suspended employees are being investigated by agents of the National Security Agency (NSA) on allegations of hijacking a plane and preventing from embarking the flights.
Many believed that the latest action taken by the management of the RIA to subject its suspended employees to not only internal investigation, but also NSA probe, amounts to witch hunting.
It is also intended to scare or discourage civil or public servants from venturing or thinking about staging protest actions at their respective places of work, especially at ministries and agencies which provide services to not only Liberians, but foreigners.
The suspension and reported investigation of the 39 being done by the NSA comes barely a week after Minister McGill instituted threats of ensuring “punishments or dismissal” of the aggrieved employees.
When contacted via phone calls and text messages over the week end, the Director of the NSA, Mr. Henrique Pearson decline to comment.
However, the management of the RIA has since regretted the situation, but blamed misinformation and misunderstanding among the employees as the factors that were responsible for the action.
The management maintained that a clause has been enshrined in the agreement reached with its counterparts for none of its current staff to be layoff.
It added that the employees will not be sent to the other company until their salary arrears and benefits are settled along with their back-pay.
The management added that it has no intention of totally getting rid of its entire workforce in the midst of the harsh economic constraints.