2 July 2014

Liberia: Mass Dismissal At Liberia Airport Authority - Board Backs Sackings

Monrovia — The chairman of the Board of Directors of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) Mr. Binyah C. Kesselly has supported the decision by the Roberts International Airport Authority current management not to honor a collective bargaining agreement with previous management of the RIA.

In 2013 Madam Ellen Corkrum, former head of the LAA entered into the agreement with some employees during the chairmanship of Mr. Musa Bility then chairman of the Board of the LAA.

Few months after Corkrum's issue was raised about the alleged misappropriation of over a hundred thousand United States dollars intended to rehabilitate the airport and her subsequent escape from the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf reconstituted the board and leadership of the LAA that brought on board Mr. Richelieu A. Williams as interim head.

The employees wrote the Legislature to intervene on their behalf to address the situation since in fact the main actor of the document that gave them hope and better incentives was no longer in the country and could not easily be reached.

In response to the aggrieved employees, the Liberian Senate through the Committee on Transport invited the Board Chairman of the LAA, Kesselly to give reasons why they support the RIA management's decision to nullify the agreement between the former management and the workers Union. During his appearance Tuesday in the plenary of the senate, Kesselly said, the board supports the management's decision because the former management did not inform members of the Former LAA board that was chaired by Mr. Bility about the agreement.

"Before a Managing Director of any state own entity is authorized to enter into a collective bargaining agreement that obligates the institution they must have a board resolution confirming them, mandating them of that right", Binyan C. Kesselly, Chairman, Board of Directors, Liberia Airport Authority

He also disclosed that all agreements entered into without the consent of the board are null and void because they were entered into without a board resolution stating that as a matter of policy and law, the board issued those mandates and give authority to the managing directors via the legal instrument that brought it into existence.

Mr. Kesselly who also heads the Liberia Maritime Authority further said, the agreement between madam Corkrum former managing director of the RIA, and the Workers union has no board resolution to the matter so there was no authorization, no minutes granted to the managing director to enter into such agreement with the workers union.

"As we speak the RIA Union has not approached the Board with their grievances so as far as this board is concerned that there is no grievance because these workers work for us and if there is a challenge between them and management the proper approach is for them to channel that up to the highest decision making body which is the board," he said.

Binyah Kessely said the agreement was nullified because it has not been brought to the knowledge of the Board, and in fact, it was dead on arrival as Board members were not aware of such agreement. He frowned on the aggrieved workers' decision to castigate the current Airport management and Board in the Media something he said is not healthy and will not help in resolving the situation at hand.

Though commissioner Kesselly claimed that some members of the former board at the time the agreement was reached told him they had no knowledge about the agreement, a document read by Senator Fredrick Cherue of Grand Kru county indicated that Mr. Musa Bility sat in one of the meetings between the former management and the Union that led to the legalization of the agreement.

Mr. Kesselly said he has no knowledge that the meeting that had Musa Bility in attendance before the decision was reached. Last year October the management of the Roberts International Airport (RIA) announced that it was carrying out a feasibility of outsourcing most of its ground handling services, in keeping with international best practice and assured workers at the airport not to entertain any fear of losing their jobs.

According to the RIA management, the impending plight of the RIA's workers is a major component of the administration's undertaking. A few weeks after some officials of the Workers Union of RIA took the airwaves of various radio stations in Monrovia to vent out their dissatisfaction over plans by the government of Liberia (GOL) to privatize the airport in order to meet international standards of modernity and safety. The workers alarmed that plans were underway to downsize them from their jobs as part of the privatization process embarked upon by GOL.

On the question of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the management said the agreement was entered into prior to the appointment of Mr. Williams Ad Interim Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA). The CBA was signed during the administration of Ms. Ellen Corkrum as Managing Director of the LAA and Mr. Musa Bility as chairman of the Board of Directors.

However, the management noted that in the spirit of cooperation and cordiality, since Mr. Williams took over the running of RIA, he has met with the Union's leadership twice, during which both sides examined the CBA and the need for partnership free of rancor. Mr. Williams, according to the RIA management statement was very clear about management defined position vi's-à-is the Union's advocacy, which should not be construed as of agitation but a constructive engagement.

A local daily recently reported: "While the airport doors remained open; the Union unceremoniously filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labor for a conference on July 24, 2013.


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