Hundreds of miners, forklift drivers and other workers at ArcelorMittal in Libera recently regained the jobs they lost following the 2014 Ebola epidemic and won back important benefits as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
The ArcelorMittal Liberia Workers Union and the company late last month entered into the two-year agreement, which continues a joint health and safety committee and opened the door to higher wages through, “comprehensive job mapping to adjust salaries where they are inconsistent with the positions,” according to the union.
The United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL) helped negotiate the agreement, and signed on behalf of the ArcelorMittal Liberia Workers Union. The workers’ chief negotiator and team members on this agreement had all participated in Solidarity Center training programs and consultations with Solidarity Center staff before negotiations began.
David Sakoh, UWUL secretary general, described the agreement as “an incredible achievement” given that it was completed during a “time of crisis,” which he said included the Ebola epidemic and falling commodities prices. ArcelorMittal last year reported a loss of nearly $8 billion due to falling steel prices and write-offs in its mining business.
The United Steelworkers (USW), Solidarity Center’s U.S. union partner in Liberia programs, thanked workers and management for their efforts to ensure through the new agreement that “the interests of workers will be represented and respected.”
The workers’ first agreement with ArcelorMittal Liberia was negotiated in 2012, making the company the second major investor in Liberia to sign a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). It came four years after a groundbreaking CBA between Firestone Natural Rubber Liberia and the Firestone Agricultural Workers.
Workers in Liberia have forged a decades-long partnership with the Solidarity Center and their counterparts in the United States, during which they received skills-development trainings to hone workers’ organizing and bargaining techniques, as well as support for their efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, prevent child labor, improve Liberian labor law, address the growth of insecure informal economy jobs and seek gender equality within their unions.