Liberia: Senate Holds APM Terminals in Contempt

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APM Terminals Managing Director George Adjei and HR boss Samuel T Duo at yesterday's hearing

The Liberian Senate has found the behavior of the APM Terminals towards the Senate and its committee on Labor contemptuous, and deemed it deserving of "appropriate sanctions."

"Based on the findings indicated, it is the belief and opinion of plenary that contempt of the Liberian Senate is justifiable; therefore, APM Terminals will remain under oath and will appear here before plenary on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, at 11 a.m. to receive the appropriate sanctions from plenary, and it is so ordered," declared President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert T. Chie.

The Senate plenary decision, contained in short handwritten notes, followed the appearance of the Managing Director of APM Terminals, George Adjei, his Human Resource head Samuel Duo and Cllr. Golda Elliott from the Sherman and Sherman Law Firm, representing the interest of APM Terminals, to show cause why the management should not be held in contempt of the Senate.

APM Terminals is before the Senate, based on a complaint filed by workers of the Dock Workers Union to the Senate through Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon against the reported unfair labor practices by the APM Terminals.

Yesterday's decision, which came after a 45-minute executive session, with only Senators in attendance, noted in its findings, read by Pro Tempore Chie, that the hearings complied with the principles of due process "in the protection of fundamental rights laid down in our Constitution."

The Senate findings asserted that, in its opinion, APM Terminals clearly decided to undermine the authority of the Senate plenary.

"The Senate plenary was not [privy] to the discussions that were held in the committee room that brought this confusion, so we did not have the opportunity to observe people the behavior, but today we have that opportunity. Plenary believes that the posture of Cllr Elliott was both abrasive and belligerent and therefore, we believe it was the same attitude she portrayed in the committee room," Protemp Chie intimated.

Furthermore, the plenary observed that the letter that was presented to them contained no justification of something that seems like an apology; " it is the opinion of plenary that that apology was very much so cosmetic and based on the findings indicated above, it is the belief and opinion of plenary that contempt of the Liberian Senate is justifiable."

It can be recalled that the Labor Committee in its report told plenary that the Dock Workers Union complaint was serious and that several efforts were made with the Minister of Labor, but to no avail; that ruling from the hearing officers at the Ministry of Labor was not adhered to by the APM Terminals management, and that the collective bargaining agreement between the APM Terminals and the Dock Workers Union has long expired and, as such, the management is operating on a new handbook.

Also, the committee further observed that the APM Terminals is not complying with its own handbook. It stated in the report that lawyers representing the legal interest of APM Terminals neither deny nor accept the workers' claims, but were rather contending that the workers should complain to the Ministry of Labor, instead of the Senate.

But Senators at the hearing argued the mandate from the plenary to look into said matter can only be reported to plenary for subsequent action or decision.

In a rather surprising recommendation, the committee, taking into what it described as the spirit of coordination between the Legislature and Executive, and considering the plight of the Dock Workers Union; "the committee recommended that plenary official informs the Ministry of Labor, through it's Minister, to handle this matter in keeping with Sections 36.4, 36.5,36.6 and 36.7 of the Decent Work Act.

However, in the debate that followed, a majority of the Senators were visibly astounded over comments attributed to the legal team of the APM Terminals, especially in dictating what matters can be investigated by the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the APM Terminals boss yesterday clarified that the retrieving of identification cards and other items from 20 suspended employees of the entity does not amount to dismissal, but simply a security protocol until the investigation into the ongoing complaint filed against the company is completed.

Also in attendance at the hearings yesterday were workers of APM Terminals, including the 20 workers serving the suspension.

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