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Strike stalls work at ArcelorMittal

By Thomas Domah, Nimba County

Normal work at ArcelorMittal-Liberia in Nimba County is at a standstill because of strike by aggrieved employees demanding salary increments and improved working conditions.

Transporting of ore from Yekepa, Nimba County to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, including work at head office have been impeded due to nonstop go-slow by employees of the mining company.

Since last week to present, movement of trains and other activities of the steel mining company have been halted with protesting employees vowing not to return to work until their demands are addressed.

They are also demanding an end to alleged bad Labour Practices since 2021 up to present, including salary increments, among others which they claimed management has failed to improve.

Trucks drivers on the mine told The NEW DAWN they are being paid US$700 monthly rather than US$2,700, while some of their colleagues, who work daily transporting ore from Yekepa, Nimba County to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County earn only US$1,200 rather than 3,000 United States dollars.

The head of the aggrieved employees Chea Romeo Brooks told reporters they have engaged the Management of ArcelorMittal about alleged bad Labour Practices but the company has refused to address their plight since 2021.

Mr. Brooks explained that prior to the current go-slow, the Ministry of Labour mandated management to address their grievances but lack of response led them to embark on the industrial action that has lasted nearly two weeks, affecting operations.

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The NEW DAWN correspondent, who visited Yekepa, said since May 10, 2023, up to present, the company’s main office there has been shut down and all activities at a standstill.

Workers who live in Yekepa have not been able to access drinking water that is supplied daily by the company.

“We have engaged management on several occasions about our demands, but they have failed to address them. These strike actions will last for a long period of time until our requests are met”, Mr. Brooks maintained.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Management of ArcelorMittal Liberia narrates that in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 10, 2023, some employees of the company in Yekepa and Buchanan engaged in industrial action, stalling production and operations in both locations as well as posing a risk to other employees.

“As we monitor the situation closely, the safety and security of our employees, the community, and our contractors will continue to be of top priority. We are in contact with the Ministry of Labor and representatives of the workers’ union. The Ministry has scheduled a meeting with all parties to which we hope to find a resolution for all parties involved”, the statement reads.

However, prior to the strike, over eight hundred contractors of Afcons erected blockage on the rail in Sanniqullie, Nimba County in demand of six months’ salary arrears allegedly owed by the company.

Saye B. Belleh, head of the aggrieved contractors told reporters that during the Ebola period in Liberia, Afcons closed down and returned in 2021 when they engaged the Management of Afcons about their six months’ salary that the company has allegedly refused to pay, leading them to erect roadblock on the rail in Sanniqullie.

When contacted, Afcons Manager, Amit Mishra, and Oscar Dolo, human resource officer (HR) said they just took office and have no knowledge of the existence of such group.

Speaking further, Manager Amit Mishra said when he took over, lists came from various communities with people claiming that they worked with the company during the Ebola period and management employed them.

But he distanced himself from those demanding six months’ salary arrears, saying management is not aware of them. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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