Labour Ministry Concludes APM Terminals Case
The Ministry of Labour has presented its findings and ruled in a case involving the management and workers of the APM Terminals following proper investigation and verification of documents presented by both the two parties.
The ruling among other issues requests the management of APM Terminals to pay all leave allowances unpaid during previous leave periods and ensure that leave allowances are paid in time to come.
According to the ruling, any unexcused absences on March 7, 2018 should be handled in keeping with the unpaid leave provisions on page 18 of the existing Employees Handbook and not illegal strike.
It said this is in keeping with section 9.1(a)/of the Decent Work Act of 2015, which provides, that “the ministry shall determine whether or not to take actions in a written complain within thirty days.”
On Monday, March 5, 2018 workers at APM Terminals appeared at their worksite but chose not to work, citing poor working conditions and making demands.
In order to end the impasse, the APM Terminals management requested intervention by the Ministry of Labour.
In response, Labour Minister Moses Y. Kollie deployed the Assistant Minister for Labour Standards, Atty. Welma Blaye Sampson and Assistant Minister for Trade Union and Social Dialogue, Togba R. Croyee Porte to meet with both management and workers. The two Assistant Ministers requested the workers to reduce their allegations into writing and submit same to the Ministry for redress.
The workers and management were also invited to send their respective leaderships to the Ministry on the following morning to begin investigation into the complaint.
The workers then submitted their grievances to the Ministry through a written protest as requested. However, the entire worker body rather than the leadership went to the Ministry for the meeting on the following day, March 6, a factor which adversely affected work.
The management was also present through a team headed by its General Manager, Mr. George Adjei.
Despite assurances that investigation would go on, a further day of limited work ensued on Wednesday March 7.
On Tuesday, March 20, workers insisted and were granted a meeting with the Ministry of Labour, through Deputy Minister for Manpower, Atty. Phil Tarpeh Dixon, who reassured them of the Ministry’s commitment to provide findings from the investigation in a timely manner.
The workers alleged in summary that they had been marginalized by the management, through its HR Director, Madam Alimata Johnson, who had an unacceptable conflict of interest since her husband is head of a company called Liberia Reconstruction and Development Company that does business with APM Terminals.
They added that she was joined in wrongdoing by Mr. Karl Gnonlonfin, who joined her in wrongfully dismissing employees, changing employees handbook without permission, denying deserving employees salary increment, threatening workers, keeping persons on contract rather than employment, changing insurance provider and failure to pay leave allowance.
The management on the other hand, requested a declaration from the Ministry that the days of reduced productivity at work were illegal strikes.
They conceded that they had changed the handbooks and insurance provider, but stated that such actions were within their powers as provided in their handbook and done in good faith.
They also generally denied the substance and factual nature of the rest of the allegations from the workers.
The Ministry was unable to agree with APM Terminals that illegal strikes occurred on its premises.
However, it determined that any unexcused absences after Tuesday, March 6, 2018 were not in the spirit of the investigation.
The Ministry was unable to agree with the workers that changes to the handbook and insurance provisions, which were shown during the investigation meeting of Thursday, March 8, 2018, were abuse of the management powers.
The Ministry agreed that the situation as presented by the complaint regarding the HR Director depicts a violation of subheading II (Conflict of Interest) in the Code of Business Ethics found on page 3 of the Handbook. The Ministry was also unimpressed that though management had in its possession all documents, which could create a contrary impression, including copy of contracts and any relevant correspondence, such was not provided within the time requested, an indication that they may not exist.
The Ministry was not presented evidence of a substantive item of law, which had been violated by Mr. Karl Gnonlonfin.