GAAWUL Opposes Amendments To Labor Law

The President General of the General Agriculture and Allied Workers’ Union of Liberia (GAAWUL), James T. Geaves has expressed concerns over the failure of the House of Representatives to invite Union Leaders for expert opinion during discussion on issues intended to affect the well-being of workers in Liberia.

Mr. Geaves said that the House Representatives recently passed and forwarded to the House of Senate for concurrence, a Bill to amend several and key provisions of the Decent Work of 2015, which is the Labor Law of the country.

He said that trade union movements in Liberia strongly believe that the House of Representatives was misled and misinformed, especially in respect to clauses/provisions to “Divide the National Unions” and its locals’ leaders without taking into consideration the most important aspect of the law, which has to do with increment of the minimum wage and salary of workers of Liberia.

He added that this act on the part of the House of Representatives runs counterproductive to the very reasons umbrella unions were organized and has the tendency to undermine and cause chaos within trade union movements of Liberia, and at the level of the industries in Liberia.

“We are all aware that the Legislature has been strong partners of the trade union movement in Liberia, evidenced by the passage of the Decent Work Act of 2015 and other relevant laws. We have always applauded them where and when necessary, and we will also not hesitate to call them and point out their errors when appropriate.”

Mr. Geaves was speaking on Friday, February 25, 2022 at  program marking the 5th induction ceremony of the newly elected officers of the GAAWUL held at the St. Anthony Catholic Church Hall in Gardnersville.

Speaking further, the newly inducted President General of GAAWUL called on the Senate not to concur with the House of Representatives on the amendments to the Decent Work, noting that it will negatively affect trade unions in Liberia.

“We herewith remind the Legislature that national unions came into existence at the request of the grass root workers. The general workers at the time believed that the local leaders were direct employees of companies; therefore, sitting and negotiating with the same employers led to a belief by the workers of a lot of alleged compromises by the local union leaders and did not achieve the maximum benefits that the workers expected. Accordingly, they requested and ensured the establishment of neutral national body to help champion and push their cause to protect and buttress the local unions through negotiating team. To revert said system that had so many controversies when things have stabilized because of the presence of a national union, may lead to labor confrontation and disharmony as was in the past when there was no neutral body,” Mr. Geaves maintained.

The GAAWUL President General urged President George Weah, should the Senate concur with the House Representatives, to uprightly veto that portion of the Bill noting, “We believe that the President, who believes in the welfare of the people, will not bring division within the national and local unions.

“In fact, and indeed, the President is an employee of the Liberian people, and we are confident that he will sing the song of solidarity and render solidarity to the workers of Liberia.”

He thanked members of GAAWUL for voting him and pledged to live up to their expectations of creating a more inclusive leadership that is attentive and responsive to workers’ rights including ensuring the protection of those rights through collective bargaining, advocacies at national and international levels, and all other legal means even when they require seeking judicial review and decision through courts.

“The strength and success of any organization is the unity of its members. Unity is strength! In this light, our administration is calling on its members and officers to unite in all their operations for the betterment of the union. The union says (Injury to one is injury to all). As such, we all must work together to protect the interest of our members. In unity success is sure. In unity, the people speak in one voice. In unity, they recognize and achieve the maximum benefits, especially when they hold together and allow no one divide them.”

He expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Labor, local and international partners for their guidance and the role played to improve trade union activities in Liberia.

Earlier, the Keynote Speaker and induction officer, the Director of Trade Union Affairs and Social Dialogue of the Ministry of Labor, Mr. Boakai M. Sirleaf said that to have a strong trade union movement, the members must work together as team, noting that “the union will be strong when members come together; at the same time, you cannot be part of the union and be against it.”

He told the newly inducted officers of GAAWUL that the members will not respect them when the leaders are not speaking with one voice. He said that in recent time, it has been noticed that some union leaders are making decision for their person gains.

“As the saying goes, the fish can start getting rotten from head, so members will not be united when the leaders are not taking decision in the interest of workers.”

The Director said that one major factor in building a strong union movement is having respect for each other. He said respect is a two-way street, noting that, “If the President wants to be respected, he/she must respect the subordinates. When you don’t respect each other, you will end up undermining the union. Therefore, you must consult each other before making decision. The interest workers must also be protected in all your decision.”

The Ministry of Labor Trade Union Affairs Director warned the new GAAWUL leadership against the love for money. He said personal love for money will not allow the building of a strong union movement because money can destroy or build organization and as such, they must not be tempted with money to make decision not in favor of the union and membership. He warned that when leaders take money, they compromise the interest of the workers and weaken the union.

He stated that to have a strong and vibrant trade union, it must have leaders with good ethical standards because they are the faces of their members.

He acknowledged that GAAWUL is one of the biggest trade unions in Liberia and called on the newly inducted officers to ensure that it takes another level. “Liberian people are forgetting about the GAAWUL in the past. You need to come up with programs to make this GAAWUL visible. You must live up to the trust and confidence your colleagues have reposed in you by exemplifying yourself as good leaders with high ethical standards.”

Those inducted to the GAAWUL new leadership are: Mr. James T. Geaves, President General, Mr. Adolphus W. Wesseh, Secretary General, Mr. Prosperous Paymah, Vice President for Administration, Mr. Alfred S. Kpannah, Vice President for Operation.

Also inducted were Mr. Aloysius M. Kollie, Director for Grievance and Negotiation, Mr. James B. Corneh, Treasurer General, Ms. Viola G. Nagbe, Women Chair,

Mr. Saye B. Baawo, Advisor General, and James D. Kollie, Chaplain.

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