ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 105 – 111
The new government has brought new hope for workers and their unions. In December the new Labour Minister promised to introduce labour law reforms in 2007 aimed at putting an end to longstanding anti-worker abuse. Basic trade union rights exist in law, but so far enforcement has been weak.
Trade union rights in law
Labour Minister promises law reform to prevent abuses: In December 2006 the new Labour Minister, veteran human rights campaigner Samuel Woods, told media that labour justice was crucial to peace and stability in Liberia, and that labour laws had to be reformed and provided with a code. Reforms to national labour would be introduced to address a wide range of labour malpractices, with measures aimed to set new standards that conformed to international labour law and practice. He added that the National Legislature had begun in October 2006 by repealing the 25-year-old Decree 12 of the military junta, which restricted rights to press demands for safer and better working conditions.
Public servants forbidden to join trade unions: All workers, except civil servants, the military and the police can join or form trade unions. However, there is currently no national legislation to guarantee workers adequate protection against anti-union discrimination during recruitment or at work. The government has promised the ILO that it will introduce legislation to protect workers against discrimination. The government Labour Practices Review Board has the right to supervise trade union elections.
Trade union rights in practice
The impact of unions remains extremely limited in the country, since in the largely subsistence economy only a small minority of workers are organised, and since according to some estimates, up to 70% of the workforce is illiterate.
Collective bargaining to be strengthened?: In late October 2006 the new Labour Minister, called on workers and management to ensure that collective bargaining agreements were fully implemented.
Striking without a permit a punishable offence: Strikes and demonstrations are allowed, but participants must have the necessary permit.
Violations in 2006
Background: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first elected woman Head of State, was sworn in as President in January 2006. Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) began work in June. On 20 June 2006, Liberian ex-Dictator Charles Taylor was flown out of Sierra Leone to stand trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Government interference in internal trade union affairs: In April 2006 the Acting Minister of Labour, Sedia Massaquoi Banguora, tried to prevent the General Secretary of the Liberia Federation of Labour Unions (LFLU), Isaac Williams, from attending the African Union Labour and Social Affairs Commission meeting in Cairo, requesting that the LFLU nominate another person. The decision was allegedly based on complaints filed by national union officials. The LFLU President General Aloysius Kie wrote to Acting Minister of Labour Sedia Massaquoi Banguora condemning the interference in union affairs and refusing to nominate another person.
In August 2006 the General Secretary of the LFLU complained of further government interference, specifically its role in deciding the new leadership of the civil servants' association.
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