The Global State of Workers' Rights - Liberia

Partly Free

The administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has indicated its intention to reform outdated labor laws. Liberia's previous record on labor rights was marred by antiunion activity and police repression. The National Tripartite Committee (NTC) was established in 2008 as a framework for dialogue between government, workers, and employers. Due to the global economic crisis and a drop in rubber prices, numerous strikes occurred at rubber plantations throughout Liberia in 2009.

Trade unions can be freely established without government interference. Following the merger of two labor organizations, the Liberia Labor Congress (LLC) was established in 2008 as a national umbrella group for unions. Civil servants and employees of state-run enterprises cannot form trade unions, and the LLC has called on the government to recognize the right of such workers to unionize and bargain collectively. The Labor Ministry's Labor Practices Review Board supervises union elections, attests to collective-bargaining agreements, reviews union financial records, and assists in cases of strike action.

In late 2006, the government repealed Decree 12 of 1980, which had banned all strikes. Throughout 2006 and 2007, strikes at rubber plantations often turned violent, with looting and destruction of property that triggered the intervention of police and UN peacekeepers. In March 2009, following a drastic drop in rubber prices, 200 employees at the Guthrie rubber plantation protested layoffs and the nonpayment of wages, burned down a police station, and took hostage a senator who had intervened to negotiate a return to calm. An Emergency Response Committee was established in November to address the concerns of aggrieved workers.

Since the repeal of Decree 12, there have been no specific guidelines for collective bargaining. In 2008, a historic three-year collective-bargaining agreement was reached between the Firestone Agricultural Workers' Union of Liberia and company management. The agreement covers wage increases and living conditions.

Positive developments under the Johnson-Sirleaf administration include the establishment of a National Minimum Wage Board and a National Commission on Child Labor, a labor-sensitive review of major concession agreements, and capacity-building initiatives for the Labor Ministry. The Decent Work Bill, which was expected to be passed in the 2010 legislative session, covers collective bargaining as well as job discrimination.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.