Liberia: ILO, Ministry of Labor and Partners Review Liberia’s Labour Laws

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Monrovia – Labour Minister Cllr. Charles H. Gibson has disclosed that since taken over the affairs as Chief Administrator of the Labour Sector of Liberia, he has observed that certain sectors need to be declared essential and restricted from the strike.

Minister Gibson said that the old Labour Law of Liberia prohibited entities that are involved with the provision of basic social services such as, water, electricity, telecommunications, airport services, and others because if they do, it will affect the entire population.

The Liberia Labour Minister added that there are other mechanisms that workers in these sectors can use to address their grievances, but strike is not one of those, because it will amount to a national lockdown. 

“But as it is, under the current Decent Work Act, Section 41.4 which provides that “To declare a sector essential, it should go through rigorous process with the Tripartite Council and ends into Gazette. In countries that were brought out of the British Colonies and are British Colonies, Gazette constitute law. In Liberia Gazette is a proclamation; the Legislature makes law.”

Minister Gibson further disclosed that ratification is a legislative process through recommendation of the President. “There may be somewhere in the Decent Work Act that is not attainable to Liberia; to restrict a sector from striking is legislative process and cannot be a tripartite declaration. We are inhibiting rights and as such, we cannot get the tripartite partners to determine what the essential sector in Liberia is. It’s the right of the legislature and we will love in this review process to give that back to the legislature. Let the legislature through Public Hearings determine on which sector of society should be declared essential.”

Minister Gibson made these assertions at the opening of a Validation Workshop on the review of the Decent Work Act to address comments and recommendations made by the ILO Committee on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR), held at the Boulevard Palace Hotel in Monrovia.

He used the occasion to encourage the participants to take the workshop serious noting that it has to do with the future of the labour sector of Liberia.

“We are to validate a report from the review of the Decent Work Act. The Decent Work Act is a tool of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It is a test case for Liberia. The Legislature was convince that it is a good instrument and UNMIL was on the ground, so we say let test it. To a large extend, the ILO is reviewing its own instrument that it brought to Liberia. In this review process, the ILO is very instrumental to ensuring that issues arising from the DWA are brought to the table to allow all partners discuss them. We from Ministry of Labour are not here to validate the report, but to further contribute to its review.”

The Liberian Labour Minister has at the same time hailed the partnership between the ILO Regional Office and the Government of Liberia through the Ministry. He said since assuming the office of Labour Minister of Liberia much have been achieved through partnership between the Ministry and by extension the Labour Sector of Liberia and the ILO. “We look further to strengthening this relationship for the betterment of the labour sector of Liberia.”   

Also speaking during the opening program, ILO Regional Director for English Speaking West African Countries, Madam Vanessa Phala said that the review of the Decent Work Act of Liberia came as a result of a Labour Conference held in 2018 under the theme “A Decent Workforce Under One Labour Law” which actually identified and resolved to review certain aspect or provisions of the Decent Work Act to ensure that we have one comprehensive piece of legislation that applies to all workers.

Madam Phala, assured the Government of Liberia and partners of the ILO preparedness to supporting the journey towards submitting reports relating to ratified ILO Conventions by the Country.  She said that reporting on ILO Conventions should not only be about just submitting a report, but making sure those conventions are fully integrated into domestic legislation to allow all of the parties in the labour sector enjoy the protection and the various principles that are covered under those various conventions.

She informed participants that the most important purpose of the workshop is to discuss a road map and the processes that will be follow in implementing recommendations and comments that are made during the review.

Madam Phala, thanked Tripartite partners (Government, Liberia Chamber of Commerce, and the Liberia Labour Congress) for their involvement in the repositioning and shifting of labour legislation in Liberia.

For his part, the ILO Country Coordinator to Liberia, Mr. Salif H. Massalay said that ILO wants a Labour Law that will cover workers in both private and public sector of Liberia. He said that the ILO was concern over issues of Labour Laws being used to regulate the country labour sector.

He said that the ILO is working with the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Labour to develop one Labour Law that will address all labour issues in Liberia as it is the case in many countries around the world.

The ILO Country Coordinator used the occasion to highlight the contribution of Labour Minister Cllr. Charles H. Gibson in promoting labour relations in the country noting that since assuming the office as Minister of Labour, he has considered labour relations as one of his priority areas and has taken the lead and promised to work with the ILO in ensuring that issues relating to the Core Conventions of the ILO are addressed.

Commenting on the objective of the Validation Workshop, Mr. Massalay said “With the completion of the review process, a validation workshop is required with the view of either agreeing, disagreeing or making amendment to the revised document based on comments and recommendations made by the Committee of Expert on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The primary objective of this workshop therefore is to discuss the outcomes of the study, and discuss a roadmap for the recommendations made therein.

The expected outcome of the validation workshop is a revised Draft Decent Work bill addressing all the comments and recommendations of the CEACR, as well as a developed roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations made therein.”

The workshop brought together over forty participant from the Ministries of Labour and Justice, the Liberia Labour Congress, the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, Civil Service Agency (CSA), Civil Servant Association, Health Workers, Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) among others.

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