24 March, 2022After five months of negotiations, the United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL), which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, signed a collective bargaining agreement with steelmaker ArcelorMittal Liberia on 12 March which will benefit 1,260 workers and create 400 permanent jobs.
The three-year agreement (2022-2024) is the fifth collective bargaining agreement to be signed with the company, and the union says this brings harmony between the workers and the employer. The agreement includes education allowances for workers’ school going dependants, housing allowances, and permanent jobs for contract workers. Further, the union also welcomes the grading of workers to address salary disparities.
The ministry of labour, which facilitated the negotiations, says the collective bargaining agreement is in line with Liberia’s Decent Work Act, which regulates conditions of employment, occupational health and safety, collective bargaining agreements and industrial action, and workers compensation among other labour issues.
The ministry says negotiations are key to building better industrial relations, and that implementation of the agreement is important.
Dave Seneh, the general secretary of UWUL, which organizes workers in the mining and steel sectors, says:
“The agreement will bring industrial peace and provide job security to the 400 contract workers who will become permanent. The conversion of the contracts from temporary to permanent employment, which will take place in 2023, will bring joy to the workers.
"It is important to emphasize that UWUL has always demanded permanent jobs since ArcelorMittal started operations in the country. We have been arguing that since the workers are doing the same work as others, they should also be offered permanent contracts.”
“We congratulate UWUL for negotiating this collective bargaining agreement which gives permanent contracts to precarious workers. This comes with benefits and better working conditions and should be applauded. It is crucial for unions to fight for permanent jobs and workers’ rights especially for workers in non-standard forms of employment,”
says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.
ArcelorMittal Liberia mines and processes iron ore and is also involved in shipping and rail infrastructure development in the country. Last year the ArcelorMittal signed an agreement with the government to expand its operations in Liberia and is the country’s largest foreign investor.