Liberia: Independent Human Rights Commission Accuses Bea Mountain of Hiring 300 Expatriates In Casual Positions Reserved Only For Liberians

0

Monrovia – The Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR) has alarmed that the Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) based in Grand Cape Mount County is grossly violating the labor law of Liberia.

Unveiling findings of its independent investigation of the company’s operations in Liberia, the Chairperson of the INCHR, Cllr. T. Dempster Brown said the company, among several violations, is ditching out jobs (including casual and low paying) only reserved for Liberians to over 300 expatriates from Turkey and other European countries.

“From our meetings with both the management and union leadership, it was revealed that the management of the company imported 300 expatriates mainly Turkish and other nationals that are employed as truck drivers, painters, carpenters, cooks, house boys, and mechanics with higher salaries. The condition of work for those aliens/foreigners are far improved than Liberian staff,” said Cllr. Brown at a major press conference at INCHR headquarters in Sinkor on Monday.

He continued: “it was observed that Bea Mountain Company is operating in Liberia yet, totally disregard the Labor Law of Liberia by not adhering to the Liberianization Policy which intended purpose is to provide job opportunities for the citizens of Liberia.”

The Liberianization policy is an affirmative action that seeks to empower Liberians. It, among others things, states that no company shall import workers who are non-Liberians to occupy any position that Liberians are trained for.

In its report, the Commission said it gathered that BMCC hired the services of Liberians as casual laborers and after three months, they are dismissed without compensation. It furthered that these casual laborers are assigned in the technical department where there are hazardous such as chemicals, but because they ae not technicians and have no knowledge of how harmful the chemicals are, they are usually vulnerable and exposed to danger. And in the process, sustaining life-threatening injuries and abandoned by management.

Excerpt: “Laborers assigned underground mining are also not insured and not giving proper safety gears for protection. There are reported instances where Liberian staff are subjected to both verbal and physical attacks by expatriates; and sometimes corporal punishments are meted against employees that go to work late.”

BMCC’s ‘Cruel’ History of Bad Labor Practice’

BMMC is one of Liberia’s oldest concessions, with its operation dating back as far as 2001 when the company signed the first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Liberian Government headed by then President Charles Ghankay Taylor to mine Diamond and Gold in Kinjor, Darblo Clan, Gola Konneh District in Grand Cape Mount County. Twelve years later in 2013, the Turkish company and the Government, this time under ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed the Restated and Amended MDA that is currently in force.

However, the company’s operation has been marred by allegations of bad labor practice, gross violations of the Restated MDA, the country’s labor law and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Residents and officials including legislators, have over the years, called on the government to ensure that the company do the right things by living by the agreement and improving the livelihoods of the people; especially those fall within the concession area.

Meanwhile, INCHR’s investigation comes at the same time the House of Representatives is conducting its own probe of the company, which was triggered by a complaint filed by Representative Bob Sheriff of the County’s First Electoral District.

In a communication to the Plenary of the House of Representatives last January, Rep. Sheriff said the company was in constant violation of the MDA it signed with the Government to extract Gold from the County.

According to him, the company was hiring foreigners to occupy positions such as unskilled labor – that were kept for only Liberians. This contravenes session 13.1(a) of the MDA, which states that, “The Company shall not hire individuals who are not citizens of Liberia for unskilled labor positions.” Rep. Sheriff’s filed the complaint following a fresh mass citizens’ protest that brought the company’s operations to a standstill.

The residents accused the company of forfeiting its corporate responsibilities. They went on the rampage, requesting the company to implement a 14-count resolution comprising several demands made to the company including a 2% exploration benefit. Their action led to the use of excessive force by the LNP against them, leaving several people injured.

INCHR Findings

The INCHR findings corroborated with the residents and their officials’ complaints. In its findings, the Commission outlined that the company does not take into consideration the safety of workers; especially those hired on a temporary basis. It alleged that all those hired as casual workers are denied access to family for up to six months because there was no provision for rest and recuperation for employees in this category. Article 33 of the CBA which called for the company to provide housing allowance has not been adhered to as 90 percent of the staff are dwelling in rental houses at their own expense, it said.

The Commission furthered that while it does not oppose the employment of foreigners, the Liberianization policy which was meant to create opportunities for Liberians should be enforced. It added that the company’s refusal to allow human rights groups including civil society organizations to monitor human rights situation at the facilities, subjected to safety regulations raise a serious doubt and concern about practices that amount to human rights abuse.

Recommendations

In a list of recommendations, the INCHR called on the Government to abide by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly which calls on all states to combat human rights abuse committed by third parties including business enterprises within their territories.

“This can be done by taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislations, regulations and adjudication, it noted.

The Commission, among other things, called on the Government of Liberia to revisit the MDA with the company to the protect the rights of workers and meet international standards; that the Ministry of Labor assign a labor inspector at BMMC to monitor and ensure that all labor standards are fully applicable in the operations of the company; enforce the Liberianization policy, remind the company to provide housing allowance to workers and activate the Employer/Union Consultative Committee as enshrined in the CBA

It also called on the Government’s security forces to observe reasonable and proportional use of force during protest and demonstration in and around the company’s facilities to avoid fatalities and injuries which could violate the rights to life and integrity.

Comments
Loading...