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Madagascar – Court decision shows Sherritt is not above the law

1 February, 2016A Supreme Court (Conseil d’Etat) in Madagascar has suspended a decision by the Ministry of Labour in favour of a union leader sacked by Canadian mining company Sherritt at its Ambatovy nickel mine. 

It means Barson Rakotomanga, an elected staff representative and a member of the work council at Ambatovy, should be reinstated at the mine.  Barson was laid off seven months ago after he led a strike in reaction to the death of a fellow worker. Following intervention by the Ministry of Labour he was fired on 27 November.

The Supreme Court is the last instance for a legal fight in Madagascar. Barson, who has been without pay since he was laid off, told of his relief to hear that Madagascar’s highest court had ruled in his favour. He said the decision gave hope to the other 15 elected staff and union representatives who have been dismissed by Sherritt for economic reasons.

As an elected staff representative, Barson is protected by law and Sherritt’s request for his dismissal was subject to the approval of the labour inspector of the region. The labour inspector found the company’s actions violated freedom of association and, instead, asked Sherritt to keep Barson on.  

Sherritt took the case to the Ministry of Labour who then cancelled the decision of the labour inspector allowing Sherritt to terminate Barson’s employment contract, under the allegation that he had damaged the reputation of the company, nationally and internationally. The Ministry of Labour also said the disturbances could have a direct impact on the country’s economy.

However, SVS, Barson’s trade union which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, took the case to the Supreme Court, which said that there was strong evidence to suspend the Ministry of Labour’s decision, which also infringed the right of trade unions to organize.

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL’s director of mining, said:

“This is a very important ruling and we hope, a precedent, that will send a message to Sherritt that Madagascar is a constitutional state and that the separation of powers is meant to prevent the very abuses that Sherritt is renowned for in Madagascar. We hope the Supreme Court’s decision shows trade unions in Madagascar that Sherritt does not own the country. This ruling gives trade unions the political space and courage to organize and grow their union base. ”