Many Workers Still Ignorant of New Labor Law Provisions

PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – Despite the new law to guide the labor sector, low education and awareness from employees and employers seem to challenge the full implementation of the law.

In May last year, the legislature passed the Decent Work Act, which set wages for all workers in the formal sector, also known as skilled workers, at US$ 5.50 per day, or US$0.68 per hour. Wages for unskilled workers, including domestic and casual workers’ wages were set at US$ 3.50 per day or US$0.43 per hour.

The new law, among other things, requires that a Minimum Wage Board be established after two years to study and propose increases in the minimum wage depending on the existing economic condition.

The Ministry of Labor says employers, as required by law, are responsible for publishing a summary of key rules in addition to personnel manuals at their place of work. Employers who violate these rules are liable to fines by labor inspectors.

A visit to key businesses around Paynesville has, however, shown that little effort is being made to educate employers and employees on the new labor regulations.

At the Total Filling Station in Rehab, Manager Lincoln McCauley said he had no knowledge about a provision that requires employers to publish summaries of regulations at their workplaces.

Although his management is in compliance with providing fair wages for its workers, the law deals with more than just wages. McCauley said he has not published any portion of the laws for workers.

Patricia Saysay, a pump supervisor at the station, said when the bill was first enacted into law, the station’s previous management informed them about it.

However, she said up to the tenure of the current management, nothing more has been said to them about the law.

She said she was not aware of what the minimum wage was. However, despite not being aware, Saysay earns a little above the lowest minimum wage for a skilled worker.

Also at the Access Bank located at Rehab Junction, some workers engaged by our reporter refused to speak to the situation on grounds that they were not authorized to speak on such matters.

However, one person who agreed to speak on a condition of anonymity said he did not remember a time that the management provided education on the new labor law.

There also appeared to be no regulations posted in the bank’s facility for workers.

The Ministry of Labour has said it has printed and distributed 5,000 copies of the Decent Work Act to relevant parties and stakeholders of the labor sector.

In a release signed by the ministry’s director of communications and public affairs, Kortu Nyanibo, the regional Office of the International Labour Organization in Nigeria last December donated 2,000 printed copies of the new Labour Law to the Ministry of Labour.

During the presentation, Labour Minister Neto Lighe assured the ILO team that the Ministry of Labour would reach out and make available copies of the act to the Legislature, the courts and to the Liberia Bar Association.

Making the presentation on behalf of the ILO, Salif Haji Massalay, head of the ILO office in Liberia, said ILO has been working with the Ministry of Labour by providing technical and financial support for the drafting and passage of the act.

He said his organization would continue its work with the ministry to sensitize the public on the rights of workers and the responsibilities of employers under the new law.

Prior to the ILO donation, Nyanibo disclosed that the Labour Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance Planning and Development, had printed and distributed over three thousand copies free of charge to major partners and other actors of the Labour sector.

“The Ministry between the months December 2015 to February 2016, in collaboration with the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, representing employers and the Liberia Labour Congress, representing workers’ organization, embarked on a major sensitization and awareness exercise of the Law throughout the country,” he wrote in an email. “We are at moment expanding our distribution to the Legislature, the Courts, and Bar Association, just to name a few. The Legislators are direct representatives of people so being in possession of the law puts them at the advantage to better explain it to their people.”

Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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