By: Moses R. Quollin, firstname.lastname@example.org +231770922412/+231880922412 (Liberia Forest Media Watch-LFMW)
Monrovia: An assessment of labor conditions for logging companies’ workers in three (3) Forest Management Contracts (FMCs) in Liberia has uncovered too many unfair practices meted ordinary workers within the logging sector.
Report said most Liberian laborers, already coping with daily challenges including poor working environments, irregular safety gears (personal protective equipment-PPEs), have no formal contracts, or short term contracts, and among others.
“The wage for some of these workers was US$3.5 per day, which does not meet the official minimum wage and there seemed to be little appreciation that this type of work meets the standard for the ‘formal sector’, where the minimum wage is US$5.50 per day.” The assessment report noted.
According to Abraham Billy, National Project Coordinator of the European Union Non-State Actor project (implemented by Tropenbos International through VOSIEDA), the 3 logging companies (FMCs) include Alpha Logging and Wood Processing Incorporated (FMC A, since 2008) operating in Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties; Geblo Logging Incorporated (FMC I, since 2009) in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh Counties; and the International Consultant Capitol-ICC (FMC K, 2009) between Rivercess, Nimba and Granded Counties.
Whilst most employee interviewed felt they could manage with the general living conditions offered by the companies, relatives of some of who lost their lives at work complained of minimal financial support and only for burial purposes, leaving dependents of the decease unsupported, the report said.
“The lack of enforcement of laws and policies on such compensation, together with the lack of clear information to workers and their families on their rights, leaves companies with discretionary power to offer anything to the victims’ families.” Mr. Billy maintained.
Generally, he disclosed among other things, that the report uncovered inconsistent wording in social agreements around the preference for workers from local communities; lack of appropriate or adequate employment contracts; implication for compliance with minimum wage laws; and obstacles to organize labor and formation of trade unions.
The assessment report was compiled by the Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) and the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) with technical and financial supports from Tropenbos International through the European Union Non-State Actor (EU-NSA) project.
In an “unofficial” respond, the FDA technical manager for commercial forestry, Jerry Nyemah has acknowledged the report noting that the Authority is very challenged with many issues including logistical and financial constraints. He promised to review the report along with his colleagues at the Forestry Development Authority, and discuss the matter with his boss C. Mike Doryen who will official state FDA’s position.
The Ministry of Labour (MOL), government’s entity with jurisdiction on all labor issues is still silent on the matter as authorities failed to attend the launching program of the “Employment Status and Contracting Conditions in 3 Forest Management Contracts (FMCs)” held on March 13, 2020 in Monrovia.
Liberia Forest Media Watch (LFMW), a consortium of investigative journalists following forestry issues, made some efforts to independently verify concerns raised against the three (3) logging companies but was greeted challenges.
LFMW visited both ICC and Ruby Light/Geblo headquarters in Monrovia (14th Street Sinkor) but could not have access to their management as an Indian national only identified as Gomez…(might be misspelled) refused to grant the media an audience. A female security posted at the entrance was used to shy away from the journalists.
When contacted management of Alpha Logging and Wood Processing Incorporated, through a representative, Emmanuel Moore said Alpha is more focus on upgrading the company instead of responding to “piece of shit by attention-seeking politicians.”
Emmanuel also disclosed that his management has already meet with Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo on similar issue. “I called them [NGOs/CSOs] airborne disease… In fact, we are business people not politicians. Thank you!” he angrily told LFMW via mobile phone.
See findings, Recommendations, and additional photos below