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BMMC Union Leader Orders Employees Flogged -Calls For Shutdown of Operations

The Workers Union leader at Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) over the weekend ordered the flogging of several employees who rejected his call to strike following the death of an employee.

Mr. Sam Roberts, according to a release also ordered the severe beating of employees who refused to join his campaign to strike. Seeing that many of the employees were not in support of his action, he resorted to the use of brute force by ordering his men to beat those who refused the protest.

On Saturday morning, June 3, 2023, an articulated dump truck, driven by employee Abdullah Kamara, accidentally ran off the descending ramp and tumbled into the open pit, resulting in the death of the operator.

Following the accident, Management called for one day off in solidarity with the bereaved family. But Roberts said there was a need to go on strike. This was to the annoyance of some employees who said the death was an accident and an investigation was being carried out.

After that, management contacted the deceased family through the company’s Community Relations and Human Resource Departments. Without waiting for the outcome of an investigation, the union chairman ordered all workers not to report to work the next morning.

On Sunday, June 4, 2023, some workers refused to take part in such a protest on grounds that it was unfair and did not have any merit, knowing that this was an accident. They were immediately attacked and the plant shut down based on the order of the union leader.

“We know and participated in direct discussions for four hours this past Tuesday, May 30, 2023, where up to 12 of the 23 counts were discussed with Management, with the agreement that the negotiations would resume on June 6, 2023. So why the sudden and abrupt strike action,” an employee who attended the meeting told reporters who were on the scene.

Bea Mountain Mining Corporation operates one of Liberia’s largest Mining Concessions, providing more than 4,000 jobs and contributing enormously to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This investment remains the largest of its kind since 2013, putting Liberia on the map of gold mining countries.

In 2018, its workforce was unionised by the United Workers Union of Liberia (UWUL) and, until 2022, remained the ‘mother union’ when the current local leadership decided to disaffiliate and join the National Union of Hotel and Airport Workers (NUHACE).

This led to a series of lawsuits between the two mother unions, leaving the workplace vulnerable as management has had no definitive mother union to engage with. Recent Labor Court rulings have also put a permanent injunction on the activities of NUHACE.

Despite this ruling, the NUHACE allegedly encouraged the workers to proceed in their June 4th actions. The BMMC Management said its decision to engage directly with the local leadership is the result of this legal impasse between the ‘mother unions’.

The trend of workplace unrest — especially in an election year — is a concern for many Liberians and foreign investors, and calls into question the Government’s preparedness and willingness to properly manage such tensions.

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