Information reaching this medium indicate that Leone Dock, a company that recruits dock workers in Sierra Leone has refused to respond to instructions given to them by the court in respect of the payment of benefits to sacked workers and have failed to work with the Union as instructed by the Ministry of Labour to speedily calculate the workers’ benefits and entitlements for their payments.
The Leone Dock was taken to court by the Union of Dock workers after they failed to reconcile the differences between them and the workers and to honour their commitments even when the Board of Directors of Sierra Leone Ports Authority tried to bring the matter to an amicable conclusion.
According to the aggrieved workers, the management of Leone Dock had refused to take responsibility for failing to pay them compensation after they were summarily sacked and did not respond to an instruction given to them by the Ministry of Labour on the 16th June, 2016 to pay the workers the total amount within a week.
This medium was informed that on the expiration of the one week deadline, the Labour Ministry took the matter to the Industrial Court on the 25th June, 2016 and four months later on the 6th October 2016, the court issued a summon to Leone Dock on three counts, including unlawful dismissal as the company failed to give notice of termination, failure to give letters of appointment to workers and refusal to pay end of service benefits to the redundant workers.
Following the court’s verdict on the matter, it was deemed that the action of Leone Dock clearly contravenes section 4 of the Employee and Employer’s Act Cap 212 of 1960 which states that “a contract of service which, or a sufficient memorandum of which, is not in writing and signed by the parties there to shall not be binding or valid for period longer than six months from the date thereof.” Also, since Leone Dock was in default of section 4 of the Act, the court in count two, considered the workers as regular or permanent workers that needed to be given 3 months’ notice in lieu of termination of service in the case of redundancy. In addition, the court considered the plaintiffs as former regular workers of Leone Dock; therefore all 94 sacked workers are also entitled to both redundancy payment and end of service benefits since they never opted to leave the service of Leone Dock.
Elvis Kargbo, a solicitor of Betts and Berewa Chambers, sought to represent the plaintiffs on humanitarian grounds considering the nature of the matter involving mostly aged people, some of whom have even met their demise in frustration. Some of the affected workers, who spoke to NewsWatch outside the court in November 2018, after the final verdict was read, commended the efforts of Lawyer Elvis Kargbo.
The workers also heaped praises on the Appeal Court Judge, Justice Sengu Koroma for ‘his belief in the rule of law.’
“We are satisfied with the verdict. Our only fear is how sincere is the company is to pay us since they have been challenging court verdicts,” they noted.
Leone Dock was represented by their legal retainer, Paps Ganon of Lambert & Partners who severally tried to challenge court verdicts on behalf of his clients. This was evidenced by the many appeals against court verdicts; the first being against the judgment dated 15th February, 2018, after the Industrial Court made the first ruling, four years after the matter was taken to court.
On the 9th October, 2018, the court squashed a Stay of Execution Motion to set aside the judgment of 15th February. In his Motion, the Leone Dock Workers legal representative, Lawyer Elvis Kargbo, argued that his clients were ready to enter a defense, which however didn’t prove sufficient enough.
A challenge to the court order against Leone Dock to pay the workers in March 2018 was entered by their lawyer again dated 15th October but was also squashed by the final judgment of 28th November 2018, which confirmed all previous rulings. The 28th November, 2018 judgment upheld earlier judgments made against Leone Dock on the 15th February and 18th July, 2018 respectively and as confirmed by a ruling dated 9th October, 2018
Sadly, since the court verdict in November, Leone Dock is yet to honor court instructions to pay the former workers as they continue to suffer in silence.
Speaking to NewsWatch at their Ross Road office in Freetown, the General Manager of Leone Dock (who refused to give his name) said that they acknowledge the court verdict and that they are willing to pay the workers. He however, said that there were few sticky areas, such as their doubt over the number of workers involved that need to be clarified with their legal retainer and the workers’ solicitor and once that is done, payment would be effected, though he could not give a time-line.
One of the aggrieved workers popularly known as Pa Kangaju and other workers who prefer anonymity said that they were illegally made redundant by the Leone Dock Company in 2015, and that their fate still continues to hang in what they described as “the balance” with no hope of ever receiving their end of service and redundancy benefits.
The workers said that they entered into employment with Leone Dock in October, 2011 as a casual workforce but were treated inhumanely by their employers and eventually laid off with no reason after four years and without their benefits.