19 September 2017

Liberia: Public Works Cover-Up Abuse By Chinese?

The Ministry of Public Works (MPW) faces accusation of allegedly covering up abuses by Chinese expatriates against Liberian workers at the China Aid Ministerial Complex project site in Oldest Congo Town, suburb of Monrovia.

But the Ministry denies the allegation levied by the aggrieved Liberians, terming it as misleading and untrue. The supervisor of Liberian contractors working with the Chinese at the Ministerial Complex project site Mr. Joe B. Kieh recently told the media here of abuses they are suffering at the hands of their Chinese counterparts.

Recounting some of the abuses, the workers representative claims that there exists no work protection for the 225 Liberian working with the Chinese at the project site. Kieh alleges that on 16 August, a Liberian contractor worker he did not name, fell from upstairs of the Complex and allegedly remained unconscious for some 30 minutes due to the alleged impact on the victim.

According to Kieh, he personally got victimized too when chemical affected one of his eyes, thereby causing to have blur vision with the affected eye.Despite having allegedly reported the matter to the Project Supervisor at the Ministry of Public Works, Mr. Winnerford Prout Richards for redress, Mr. Kieh alleges that the case was swept under the carpet up to present.

Mr. Kieh says Liberian contractor workers are sustaining injuries regularly due to the size of the Ministerial Complex buildings, saying they are issued substandard safety gloves that can only last for three minutes to get damaged and become unuseful. Given such situation, Mr. Kieh claims that Liberian workers are compelled to work with the damaged gloves.

The Supervisor at the Project Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Public Works, Mr. Winnerford Prout Richards confirmed the aggrieved Liberians' claims, saying that the workers have complained of unfair treatment by the Chinese expatriates.

While acknowledging that the Liberian workers have complained of lack of provision of safety material to them, Mr. Richards insists that it is obvious that at the project site there will be problem coming from workers.

Earlier, Ministry of Public Works Communication Director Mr. Yusufu Keita termed the workers' allegation as misleading and untrue. According to Mr. Keita, the media visitation to the Ministerial Complex site in Oldest Congo Town was to dispel reports that Chinese expatriates had taken workers' voter registration cards and those workers were not working because of misunderstanding between them and the Chinese.

He, however, confirmed that the differences between the Chinese expatriates and Liberian contractor workers are being gradually resolved as the Ministry wants to be mindful not to absorb the function of the Ministry of Labor which has oversight over workers' rights in the country.

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