What seems to be a high mark between the management of APM Terminals and its workforce early this week became a reality when both the management of APL Terminals and the workers union of the company signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
Over the past months there has been a serious in house fight between the workforce and its management, a situation that led the President of the Dock Workers Union of Liberia (DOWUL), Madam Jackie Doe to spent sleepless nights for the wellbeing of both the management and its workers.
The colorful signing ceremony which was witnessed and graced by the Minister of Labour, Charles Gibson and senior executives of the company including the Managing Director, Jonathan Graham saw smiling faces of the workers in their joyous mood.
The Management of the APM Terminals Liberia Ltd and the Dock Workers’ Union of Liberia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) bringing to close a long-standing labour dispute between the employees of the APM Terminals Liberia represent by its Dock Workers Union (DOWUL) and the Management.
The ceremony which took place, Monday, September 27, 2021 in the conference room of the Ministry of Labour in Monrovia was graced by the Management of APM Terminals Liberia headed by its Managing Director, Mr. Jonathan Graham, the workers represented by DOWUL, and officials of the Ministry led by Minister Charles H. Gibson. The MOU was signed by Mr. Jonathan Graham on behalf of the Management, Madam Jackie N. W. Doe, President of DOWUL signed for the Workers while, Assistant Labour Minister for Trade Union and Social Dialogue, Hon. Gonsan-Zeo P. Mensah, witnessed on behalf of the Ministry. Assist. Min. Mensah was the head of the MOL negotiation team that help to arrive at the MOU.
Speaking during signing the ceremony, Labour Minister, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson said that the MOU entered by the APM Terminals Management and workers provides a lot of soft spots to define the relationship between workers and management on how they should henceforth address issues where there is disagreement pending between them.
The Liberian Labour Minister used the occasion to highlight the role of the Ministry of Labour in resolving labour disputes in the country. He said that the Ministry respect workers and protect their rights, but also have the duty to ensure that the investor investment is not in jeopardy adding that without an employer, there will be no employee. He said further that his Ministry will work to ensure a balance in regulating relationship between employers and employees.
Minister Gibson however noted that in the process of ensuring a balance, the Ministry sometimes gets misinterpreted, at one point by the workers and another by the management.
He maintained that as a regulatory arm of Government, the Ministry of Labour must focus on the rules and will always encourage social dialogue. He assured the parties that the Ministry of Labour will always be available and look forward to a smooth implementation of all that have been agreed to by the Management and the workers in the MOU.
Minister Gibson described the new Managing Director of the APM Terminals Liberia, Mr. Jonathan Graham as a visionary who sees things differently. He said that since his arrival, he has been engaging the Ministry and Management team positively and those other issues that have not been passed on by the court are being addressed in the MOU. He expressed happiness that all the six counts derived by the Ministry ruling are all being addressed in the MOU. The MOU also provides that pending its signing and implementation, the Lawyers of APM Terminals Liberia will formerly withdraw their appeal against the Ministry’s ruling from the Labour Court.
He hailed the MOU and said that the Ministry will take it as a model for other entities to emanate in that outside of the Ministry of Labour, parties can sit and negotiate an agreement that resolved almost all of the issues noting that there will be issues, but this MOU also provides the mechanism on how other issues that may come about in the future can be addressed.
In concluding, the Labour Minister informed the Management of the APM Terminals Liberia that “There are other matters that does not bordered on labour, but are concerns of some in the Legislature and the Executive as it relates to the implementation of the current agreement between the Company and Government of Liberia. I am confident that with your style of leadership, that issue will be addressed, and the concerns will be addressed fairly and amicably. Because it is important that, if I do not agree with you, I must understand what your disagreements are and respect it.
For his part, the Managing Director of APM Terminals Liberia, Mr. Jonathan Graham thanked the Minister and the Ministry for the support and guidance to all the parties during the negotiation. He also thanked the DOWUL Leadership and his team for the manner and form through which they derived at a peaceful signing of the MOU. He promised to ensure the adherence to the full implementation of the MOU.
Also speaking during the ceremony, DOWUL President Madam Jackie N. W. Doe praised the leadership of the Ministry of Labour under the watch of Cllr. Charles H. Gibson for the level of intervention in bringing the long running dispute between the Management and Workers of APM Terminals Liberia to an amicable end in the interest of industrial peace and harmony.
She described the relationship between the two as social partners who are working to move the country forward and not enemies. She also praised the new Managing Director, Mr. Jonathan Graham and the team of the Company and said that she looks forward to a smooth implementation of the MOU.
Brief history of the Labour Disputes:
The workers of APM Terminals went on a labour strike in 2018 and the Ministry of Labour intervened and found the Company liable for breaching its own policy that provided Annual Leave Allowance for employees, unpaid overtime, amongst others.
The Ministry of Labour mandated the APM Terminals to settle the unpaid Annual Leave Allowance and overtime, a mandate which was implemented and was of the understanding of APM Terminals that the Matter was resolved.
The employees under the leadership of the DOWUL, went on another labour strike in September 2020 citing grievances of pending unpaid annual leave allowance from 2018 strike resolution including other issues such as inadequate medical insurance, incomplete food allowance, amongst others as reasons for their strike action.
The MOL determined that it was evident that the strike action was inchoate with regards to its legality in that if fulfilled the legal requirement in part and failed in part and also held the APM Terminals liable on six counts contained in the finding from the MOL.
The MOL also mandated AMP Terminals to recall employees who were suspended as a result of the September 2020 strike action to return to work, a mandate which was rejected by AMP Terminals and submitted to the National Labour Court for judicial review.
Whilst the judicial review was pending, the Court ordered AMPT to honor the MOL’s directive to recall the suspended employees and have them return to work and pay their full salaries and benefits incurred during the period under suspension, a mandate APMT implemented unconditionally.
The Management of APMT honoured the court’s mandate in respect of the rule of law and recalled the suspended employees to return to work.
Henceforth, both DOWUL (representing the employees) and the Management of APMT desirous of resolving their disputes agreed to use social dialogue and negotiations to resolve pending and any disputes and in the case that they cannot reach an agreement, both parties agree to seek the MOL intervention for peaceful disputes resolution in alignment with the Liberian laws and the Decent Work Act of 2015.