By R Joyclyn Wea
The Ministry of Labor on Monday received its first setback under the leadership of Minister Moses Kollie from the civil law court “A” in a case involving the ministry and some aggrieved workers of the Liberia Firestone Rubber Company over the conduct of its workers’ union elections at the plantation.
The group under the banner, “Concerned Due Payers of Firestone” filed a petition with the Civil Law Court “A” for a declaratory judgment against the Ministry.
The Ministry of Labor is at the civil law court on two separate complaints filed against it by the ‘Concerned Due Payers’ of Firestone and the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) for fine imposed on the company which it terms as wrongfully imposed and challenged that by taking the ministry to court.
The MOL was defeated in its first lawsuit with the ‘Concerned Due Payers’ of Firestone.
Following the petition for declaratory judgment, the petitioner (Concerned Due Payers of Firestone) further prayed the Court for the issuance of a preliminary injunction on all election activities of the trade union at the company.
Civil Law Court “A” judge Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay on June 25, 2018 ruled against the Ministry of Labor in said petition for declaratory judgment filed against the Ministry by a group of workers.
Recently, Judge Gbeisay issued the writ of preliminary injunction as prayed for by the petition (Concerned Due Payers of Firestone) compelling the Ministry of Labor to speedily probe (investigate) the complaint filed by the group of workers.
The petitioners pleaded with the court to issue the order on the MOL represented by and through the Minister, Deputies, Assistants, and Directors of the Ministry, the agriculture Agro-processing and the industrial workers union of Liberia (AAIWUL), represented by its secretary general and all officials who are respondents in the case.
Petitioners argued that the Decent Work Act of 2015 gives them the rights to be heard by a court of competent jurisdiction one of the reliance for their court’s action.
They fear that should the elections be carried out without their right or complaint being look into, their case would be jeopardized.
They further requested the court to stop the respondents from carrying out any form of elections of the Labor Union in the name of AAIWUL, while hearing and determination into the matter was still pending before that honorable court.
The court recognized the Ministry’s 13-count resistance in which the ministry held that the aggrieved workers should channel their grievances through their leadership that is fully recognized by the ministry and further requested the court to among other things dismiss the matter.
The judge ruling stated that due process is cardinal in the fundamental rights of all citizens, therefore the ministry should proceed to hear the complaint before the conduct of any future elections.
The lawsuit was as the result of MOL instruction or demand that the elections be held in keeping with law, something which sparked out serious confusion and disagreement that led to the taking to court of the ministry by the group.
Accordingly, MOL would equally face the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) in that same court over an action of alleged breach of law and wrongful fine in the tone of US$7000.00 plus additional five hundred United States dollars fine imposed on the company by the Ministry of Labor.
Deputy Labor Minister for Manpower, Planning and Development, Atty. Phil Tarpeh Dixon on recently told reporters at the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism, that LAC has for the past fifteen years reportedly refused to pay for any work permit of its foreign employees on grounds that the company is not to pay for work permit which they claimed is in line with law.
This action on the part of LAC, Atty. Dixon explained led to the ministry’s decision to imposed said fine thus asking the company to pay the government of Liberia for all the years they had been non-compliance.
Meanwhile, Atty. Dixon has emphasized the total cost at over US$7000.00 and additional five hundred United States dollars but, the company has contested the MOL fine and taken the entity to law.