Operations at Mount Torkatay in Yekepa have come to a standstill due to a protest action staged by workers there in demand of better wages.
During the early morning hours of August 1, 2012, the workers brought down all their equipment from the mines and parked them at the SEGAL security.
They said until their plight can be addressed, they will not return to work. The striking workers, all Liberians, complained that their employer, Engineer and Planner (E&P), is not treating them fairly.
According to them, they have observed a huge pay disparity between them and their Ghanaian counterparts, since they started work more than 15 months ago.
Engineer and Planner is a Ghanaian Mining Firm contracted by Arcelor Mittal to carry out mining at Mount Torkatay in Yekepa.
Some of the striking workers, who spoke with the Daily Observer on condition of anonymity, said named “poor salary, no good housing facilities, no social security and no school for our children” as some of the issues influencing their decision.
“A Liberian auto mechanic whose salary is about US$ 300.00 said his Ghanaian counterpart, who is doing the same job, earns is a monthly salary of US$ 3,000.00, a daily US$ 100 for lodging and US$ 75 daily for feeding,” they grieving workers said.
A truck driver, who only identified herself Julia, said, “We are risking our lives and not earning enough to sustain us.”
“The company is running two shifts; 12 hours each and the work is very tedious. Why can’t we all be treated equally?” asked electrician Washington Belewor, rather rhetorically.
It may be recalled that in February this year, the Liberian miners staged a protest in demand of increment in their salaries, as well as insurance and other benefits.
“This is our seventh time going on strike but the government doesn’t care to look at our plight and address it accordingly,” said one of the aggrieved miners.
Another miner, who is working in the production room at the mount, told this newspaper that due to the intensity of the work, they are required to mine about 10 tons of ore within 24 hours.
Bonah Gayflor, a miner said, “E & P Mining Company is paying an unskilled Liberian US$ 250.00 as a monthly salary, while an unskilled Ghanaian is paid US$ 2,500.00 monthly.”
“This is not fair to us, most of them do not even know the job better. We do everything. Why is management treating us like this?” he added.
When contacted, the spokesperson for E&P failed to comment on the workers’ allegations.
However, the Communication Officer of Arcelor Mitta, Hesta Baker Pearson, was available for comment. She said, “Two hundred employees of Engineers and Planners, ArcelorMittal’s contractor which operates our Tokadeh mine, began a strike action on August 1, 2012. We have not officially been informed of what the demands of the E&P employees are.”
“However, ArcelorMittal’s management has begun to engage with the management of E&P as well as various government agencies to ensure that this strike action is settled quickly and to the benefit of all sides involved,” she added.
“Our normal operations at our Buchanan Port are ongoing with shipping and our fulfillment of commitments to our customers is ongoing. None of ArcelorMittal employees are involved,” she maintained.
Ms. Baker Pearson concluded, “ArcelorMittal is committed to maintaining constructive relationships with its employees and encourages all of our contractors to do the same.”
Meanwhile, Lands & Mines Minister Patrick Sandolo and Nimba Superintendent, Christiana Dagadu, are carrying out negotiation for the miners to return to work.