23 May 2013

Liberia: Defaults in Labor Law, Decent Work Bill

Defects in both the current Labour Law and Draft Decent Work Bill 2010 have been discovered, with a call for action to bring Liberia in harmony with international standards and the practice on child labour.

Attorney-At-Law Michael M. Allison, Managing Director of the BRICS Mano River Union Legal Consultants said there was disharmony between minimum age for education and work issue in Liberia.

He told a conference of both local and international stakeholders on child labour Wednesday in Monrovia that the Education Reform ACT provide, in section 4.4.2, that children between ages of six(6) and fifteen(15) years were subject to compulsory upper basic education ending at nine(9) grade.

"Therefore, all children within this age group are statutorily required to be in school.

The current labor law stipulates that the minimum age for full time employment is 16-years old and above, while the incoming Decent Work Bill 2010 reduces this to 15 years and above," Allison noted.

He said the draft labor law requirement is at odd with the Education Reform Act 2010 as a 15 year old who is to be in school is being permitted to take full time employment at the very same age.

"The obligation in respect of minimum age for employment and standards on hazardous work should carry the binding weight of an international law and any enactment without ratification in line with the internationally accepted framework and standards runs the risk of jeopardizing in hazardous work," he noted.

Allison expressed the belief that text in the Decent Work Bill 2010 does prohibit the labor market from engaging children in general hazardous work, but fails to specifically identify tasks which are internationally accepted as hazardous.

"The effect of this is that it will render any prosecution and adjudication process difficult to define. There are also no specified penalties or fines for offenders," he lamented.

Allison said there is no definition of hazardous chemicals and a provision for the revision of such list of hazardous chimerical are not provided in law.

He advanced further that a National Commission on Child Labor was established within the Ministry of Labor to conduct monitoring of child labor in Liberia by executive law establishing the Ministry of Labor is completely silent about this Commission and this may have resulted in marginal legislative budgetary support.

"The laws need to be evidence-based and driven by qualities studies as to the problem of child labor in Liberia with a national data base on child labor needed and customary laws need to be updated," Allison said.

According to the United States Department of Labor Study in 2009 on the Liberian child labor situation, children in Liberia work on family farms and in alluvial diamond and gold mines; on commercial rubber plantations; and children tap rubber trees, clear brush, and carry buckets.

The findings also stated that children were engaged in scrap metal collection, charcoal production, foreign currency exchange, auto repair, stone crushing, and fishing.

The report went further that children also work in the construction and timber sectors, and as porters, truck loaders, and sand baggers, and some children, especially girls, engage in prostitution, in some cases to pay school fees or support their families.

On Child's Right to Education, the Education Reform Act 2011 and Children's Law 2012 indicated the education reform Act 2011 governs and regulates the educational system and the delivery and management of the system to ensure the provision of quality education to all citizens.

In 2011, the Ministry of Education conducted a study on out-of-school children with support from UNICEF, which revealed that 68 percent of children in Liberia were not attending school, and that two thirds of the families interviewed revealed that girl child pregnancy and disability were the two leading contributing factors.

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