Pres. Sirleaf’s Intervention: A Step Towards Abolishing “Existing Slavery” at China Union in Bong Mines
Even though the People’s Republic of China or PRC has always show cased itself, in practical terms, as true partners of Liberia, this partnership may not be free of constraints. Like any other bilateral partnership, Sino-Liberian Relations may be inclusive of human errors, especially in the extractive industry that may likely be threatening the success of the partnership.
When many Liberians regarded the Mineral Development Agreement or MDA between the Liberian Government and China Union- owned by the Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation (WISCO) of Hong Kong, the world’s largest iron ore mining company as a fair game or ‘win-win’ situation for Liberia and China, little did Liberians know that the actualization of the MDA would have been characterized by constraints created as the direct result of intentional ‘human errors’.
Currently, bad labor and non-adherence of the social benefits of workers of China Union in Bong Mines and the people of Fuamah District in Bong County are characterizing the operations of China Union. The company pays its Liberian workers US$75.00 per month, while at the same time paying its unskilled Chinese laborers US$75.00 daily; it conveys these unskilled Chinese workers in air-conditioned buses to work, while their Liberian counter-parts ride open dump-trucks; unskilled Chinese are made supervisors/foremen with no regard to Liberians; Liberian workers are most often treated as slaves at their job sites (and sometimes even beaten to death by their Chinese supervisors without any redress by the management); as well as many more labor abuses.
As expressed by the local administration during the visit of President Ellen Sirleaf to Bong Mines, China Union continues to do far less than enough in meeting up with its social obligations to the Fuamah District community to the dissatisfaction and annoyance of the Commissioner Hampton Giddings and District Representative Gorpu Barclay, even though the company is claiming to have spent US$20m on the main road, rehabilitation of the Central high school and Hospital- an expenditure citizens described as mockery.
As an acknowledgement of the “existing slavery” at China Union mentioned, President Sirleaf urged the management of the company to respect the rights of the people (to include Liberian workers of China Union). The mere fact that the Assistant Managing Director of China Union, Mr. Ken Shen would admit to the workers and people of Fuamah, and the emissary of the President of Liberia, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf, during last weekend’s fact-finding meeting in Bong Mines, that very little has been done and that they needed to do more to satisfy the people, it is very clear that the action being perpetrated by the Management of China Union is well calculated against Liberian workers in the interest of unskilled Chinese workers brought in by the company.
One can only hope that unlike other officials, Deputy Minister Varney Sirleaf, having listened to the cries of the workers of China Union, will make the necessary recommendations to Madam President for prompt actions against the “existing slavery” at China Union. And being fully cognizant of the foregoing actuality at China Union, it is also the prayer of thousands of Fuamah District citizens and workers of the company that President Sirleaf will leave no stones unturned to act in consonance with the MDA and interest of her people.
Because of the failure of the officials of Bong County, most especially the Legislative Caucus (excluding Rep. Gorpu Barclay) that has made itself so powerful over the county administration, to exert vigor in their interventions, the company decided to resurrect “slavery” in Bong Mines. But with this intervention by the President, expectations are that this modern-day slavery will be crushed in the interest of a happy people and a happy workforce.