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Silver Automobile Limited accused of bad labor practices

By: Emmanuel wise Jipoh 

Employees of Silver Automobile Limited in LPRC community, along the Japan Freeway, are complaining of bad labor practices, including arbitrary salary cuts, inhumane treatment and poor work environment, but management denied that such practice exists.

Silver Automobile Limited is distributor of tricycle taxis otherwise known here as “Keh-keh”.

The employees, including mechanics and office staffers, accused management of consistent bad labor practices, including low salaries and illegal dismissal.

Speaking to the NEW DAWN, they said they are being paid below the minimum wage of 143 United States Dollars as required by labor standards.

The aggrieved workers also accuse their foreign bosses of intimidation and failure to have them permanently employed since 2003, subjecting them to a “gentleman agreement” without a proper contract.

The workers, who frustratingly say they are prohibited from speaking out, describe the work environment as “hell”.

“We work from Monday to Friday throughout the week with no day off, even when we are sick, you’re forced to come to job, because no excuse, even when you put in for excuse, they wouldn’t grant it. They will cut your salary. If there were a day off, they’ll mark it against you”, one aggrieved worker, who identified himself as Archie, narrates.

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According to him, one of their colleagues, a field agent by the name, Chuku Dolo, died last year in a motor accident while he was on duty, but his family is yet to receive any benefits from management.

Archie reveals that labor inspectors have visited the company on countless occasions, but nothing substantial is being done to compel the company to do the right thing. 

“We are working daily, repairing the tricycles and putting them together for customers. We are working for only US$75, some of us below that, while others earn $100, $125 maximum. They don’t adhere to our cries, even some of our field agents, who are injured, are not catered to and there’s absolutely no excuse for your absence,” one mechanist explains.

Besides, few customers, who acquire the tricycles under the agreement of work and pay or payment scheme thru installments, complain of exorbitant prices, and even when their Bajaj is impounded or there is default for some reason, payment is compounded.

A tricycle rider, Alex Matia, narrates that he fell sick but his cycle was impounded by the company for four months (September- December 2022) despite communicating with management about his illness.

Mr. Matia expresses surprise that his US$87 weekly payment installment accumulated to US$261 for unexplained reasons, something he noted, was shocking to him, despite not running the Kehkeh, which was parked for two weeks.

He said when he went to inquire from the finance department why his payment had accrued to US$261, the customer service adviser consistently replied: “Sir, this bill is computer-generated and we can’t manipulate it in any way.”

“Your Kehkeh has been parked here for two weeks, and you are due to pay for the entire week the tricycle was parked, it is not our fault, but per our agreement, so you have to pay that money, if not your Kehkeh wouldn’t be released. We are doing business.”

Matia laments that while trying to hustle to pay, as time elapsed, the bill accumulated to US$1,125 for seven months, leaving him with no alternative but to forego the agreement, returning the tricycle to Silver Automobile LTD, though he had initially paid cash of US$1000 before entering the Ride & Pay Rental agreement.

When this paper contacted the Management of Silver Automobile Limited over these complaints from both worker and customer, a Lebanese national Saranraj Madavan, said to be the operation manager and head of finance, denies any wrongdoing.

However, Mr. Madavan concedes that there are 60 workers at the company, who haven’t gained employment status but are on prohibitional contracts for one year, which is renewal.

He was mute about allegations of intimidation and illegal dismissal, declining to speak further, referring the NEW DAWN to company lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson.

Silver Automobile (LTD) CEO responsible for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Mr. Hamir Ajit Udeshi, also declines to comment; instead, referring all explanations to his legal team spearheaded by Cllr. Johnson.

Meanwhile, series of phone calls placed to the Liberian lawyer didn’t materialize as his phone was either busied or switched off.

In further pursuit of Cllr. Johnson recently during the Liberia National Bar Association Annual Assembly held at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Cllr. Johnson similarly failed to comment, rather referring the Media to the Ministry of Labor, as the appropriate institution to answer all questions, relating to his client, including concerns about bad labor practices and inhumane treatment. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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