By Ranger Ranger……
Workers of Addax Bioenergy Company in Mabilafu, few miles from Makeni, on Monday 12th June 2017, staged a peaceful strike action to register their discontent with the treatment of nationals by the company. Addax Bioenergy is a Swiss-Owned Sugarcane-based renewable energy company operating in Northern Sierra Leone with a work force of over 800 nationals. This move was necessitated by the apparent disregard for the appeals and concerns raised by the workers.
According to our source, when workers work over time they simply go without pay. In other words they do overtime work for free. This cuts across the board, including senior management staff. It was also discovered that retirement benefits for senior staff are not paid. Also workers spoken to say that the company virtually forces senior staff to sign contracts that are not in their favor. When asked about the availability of a union that could take up their grievances with the company, it was disclosed that they do not have any Industrial Union where they could make their voices heard as the company did not encourage the setting up of such a body. They spoke of the Labour workers as siding the company than seeking the benefit of the workers. This they attributed to the possibility of the exchange of brown envelopes between the administration and the latter.
It could be recalled that the Local Content Policy is designed to address the rate of unemployment in the country with a view towards Sierra Leoneans being treated in like manner with all expatriate workers of any company operating in this country. Furthermore all such companies are expected to observe the Labour laws of the country. In line with this policy Addax was encouraged to acquire land both in Bombali and Tonkolili districts to grow sugar cane which they then convert into ethanol for shipment to other European countries.
It has been further learnt that the company is contemplating on laying off half of its workers this month. This move has been attributed to the criticisms levied against them by some of the workers and may not be unconnected with the recent peaceful strike action taken by the workers to register their dissatisfaction with the company. What has been the norm from some of these companies operating in this country is the advantage they take of the present economic constrains taking place in the country. Workers will be dismissed and severance packages withheld, and nothing substantial is done by the ministry of Labour to address the plight of the workers. This happened with workers of London Mining Company in Lunsar. They sold the company to another group which has refused to honor the liabilities of the vendor, but instead claimed to have only bought the assets and not the liability. Had there been any serious action taken to get the company to address its liabilities before transferring ownership to another, this would have sent the right message that the lives and wealth of the people of Sierra Leone should not be trampled on.
Many of the workers see the company as taking advantage of the economic conditions in the country and exploiting it to the best of their ability and benefit. However in trying to get a balanced story this press contacted the General Manager of Addax Bioenergy Company Mr. Gbeki but he refused to pick the call. We shall also give his side of the story whenever he responds to our call.