A local civil society organization, the Volunteers to Support International Efforts in Developing Africa (VOSIDA) in collaboration with the National Union of Community Forestry Development Committee (NUCFDC) has released an assessment report on employment status, terms and conditions of logging workers in three forest management contracts (FMC) areas in Liberia. The report was lunched on March 13, 2020 by the Head of Secretariat of NUCFDC, Andrew Zelemen who severed as Chief Launcher.
The three FMCs studied include, FMC-A in Lofa and Gbarpolu Counties, FMC-I in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh Counties and FMC-K in Nimba, Rivercess and Grand Gedeh Counties. The study was conducted with funding support from the European Union (EU) through the Non-State Actors (EU-NSA) Project that is being implemented by VOSIEDA and Tropenbos International (TBI).
According to VOSIEDA Program Manager, Abraham Billy, the research examined employment contracts, health and safety issues, housing, and collective bargaining between workers and Management. Mr. Billy said, the research team analyzed the Decent Work Act, Voluntary Partnership Agreement and Social Agreements, along with interviews with community members, workers, managers, and government officials.
Amongst others, Mr. Billy said, issues identified include inconsistent wording in Social Agreements around the preference for workers from local communities, lack of appropriate or adequate employment contracts-and implications for compliance with minimum wage laws; and obstacles to organized labor and the formation of trades unions.
“The main recommendations in the report include regular performance audits to be conducted by the Ministry of Labor and the Forestry Development Authority; proper application of minimum wage laws; much greater gender equity in employment; and improved investment and fair treatment of worker by logging companies”, Mr. Billy further stated.
In respond to Mr. Billy’s presentation of key findings from the report, the Chief Launcher, Andrew Y.Y. Zelemen stated that the report is not an indictment for the government or the logging companies, but a wake-up call for improved logging industry/concession that ensures the welfare of workers.
“This report is in line with the universal human rights and the international labor practices; henceforth, we must take it in a positive manner to make improvements. The company must commit themselves at standard level in making impact, not just to satisfy the law, but good practices,” added Zelemen.
Making remarks at the launching program, representatives from CSOs and communities lauded VOSIEDA for continuous efforts in reporting on issues affecting sustainable forest management in Liberia. They promised to work with the report in demanding full implementation of the logging contracts/concessions and community rights, especially around labour practices.
In a brief remarks, the Technical Manager of Commercial Forestry at the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Mr. Jerry Yonmah described the report as a good beginning for national stakeholders’ engagements, particularly the FDA. “Your work will help us to know the problems on ground. We can just look through the report and pick up the real issue,” Mr. Yonmah emphasized.
He however encouraged civil society organizations and communities to keep engaged with the FDA on findings of the report by ensuring the Managing Director is brought up to speed.