The Sierra Leone Police had to swiftly intervene yesterday by sealing the offices of dock workers to restore calm around the Queen Elizabeth II Quay area after the latter went haywire in their ongoing strike action against the substantive president, Abdul Kanasieu.
Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), who doubles as head of the Ross Road police station, Alfred Karrow-Kamara said the police action was appropriate because it was meant to bring calm in the area. He said they had witnessed several strikes by the workers and that it was the constitutional duty of the police to maintain law and order.
The workers were protesting over what they said was a blatant violation of a unanimous decision by the Sierra Leone Labour Congress to prevent Abdul Kanasieu from entering the union offices until elections slated for Friday December 6.
The decision was taken after his term of office expired on 8th November; and the workers have been up-in-arms demanding his replacement, blaming him for poor conditions of service, including the non-availability of safety gears for workers.
The irate dock workers complained that they are treated even more despicably in death as workers who die as a result of accident in the work place are taken to the mortuary on cargo trucks instead of being ferried by the ambulance, and often without any assistance from the management of the port or union leaders. They also claimed they are not covered by any insurance policy.
Concord Times gathered that most of the dock workers are casuals, and are not formally employed by the Port Authority.
However, the workers said union leaders, in cahoots with the management of companies operating at the quay, deduct certain amount from their salaries, ostensibly as part of contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund.
The workers further accused their leaders of deducting two hundred thousand Leones from junior staff and one hundred thousand Leones from casual workers declared redundant or retired, without any justification. This was not independently verified though.
They also accused their leaders of running a secret Union because they blatantly fail to inform them about salient developments about workers’ service benefits and welfare, thus calling on the current president go and not be accorded another chance to contest the forthcoming elections. Protests against him have escalated in recent weeks, prompting the umbrella body of trade unions in the country –Labour Congress – and the Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations to intervene by postponing the initial elections was due in November to this December.
In a telephone interview with Concord Time, the beleaguered president of the Union, Abdul Kanasieu said he got the permission of Labour Congress officials to go to the Union offices yesterday to arrange certain logistical issues ahead of the election this weekend. Kanasieu denied the litany of allegations against him, referring to them as “mere fabrications” and that he was in favour of fostering a better working relationship with the workers.
Meanwhile, one of the aspirants for the position of Union president who has been disqualified by the Labour Congress, Kekura Kargbo told this reporter in an exclusive interview said he has satisfied with the decision and was to going to challenge it, as the impasse is between Kanasieu and the workers, not he and the latter.