By Emmanuel TJ Kollie (Intern)
The plenary of the House of Representatives halted on Tuesday, July 14, Firestone-Liberia’s anticipated decision to downsize about 374 employees, primarily from the Company’s Estate Department.
Plenary’s decision was based on a motion by Montserraddo District#8 Rep. Acarous Gray, calling on the company to halt its planned decisions.
The rubber company was also mandated to reappear in an open session next Tuesday, July 21 with its five-year financial reports and other sub-contracting documents.
“Firestone is laying-off their employees and using the revolving door policy to subcontract a company to carry on their most important work, tapping. Firestone has also instructed the subcontracting company to rehire those redundant workers without the benefits they were entitled to,” Margibi County District #1 Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh, who wrote the communication to invite the Firestone management, said.
Rep. Tarponweh said the Company’s action to outsource their core work (tapping) without authorization and passively lay off their employees’ benefits is a violation of Section 14.5 of the Decent Work Act and Sections 9 and 10 of the Firestone Concession Agreement.
He said the company exports all of its rubber products out of Liberia, and the only benefit that the country gets is the employment of its citizens.
“We have had a long-standing partnership with Firestone since the 1920s. Let me state here that we may have values as partners, but I don’t see those reciprocations from Firestone towards the Liberian people. This is why our partners are here to understand that as much as we have appreciated their presence in Liberia, they have done very little. I say this to explain that all of those investments have made Firestone-Liberia become a multibillionaire company. What we get under this agreement is just the employment and the benefits for our people. Now, Firestone is creatively and passively taken away those little benefits from our people”, the Margibi County District #1 Lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of Firestone Liberia, Don Darden said the decision is necessary to preserve the sustainability of the company’s operations in Liberia.
In response, Labor Minister Moses Y. Kollie said the Ministry of Labor will not support Firestone Liberia with the guidance it needs to undertake its planned redundancy exercise based on the company’s failure to provide an instrument that is convincing to show the ministry whether its proposed workforce cut is at the “result of re-organization, transfer, discontinuance or reduction of business.”
Other Representatives including Ivar K. Jones, Ben A. Fofana, and Ellen Attoh Wreh, all of Margibi County Districts 2,4, and 3 respectively and Francis Dopoh of Rivergee County District #1 expressed dissatisfaction and condemned the Company’s anticipated decision to redundant Liberians on July 26, Liberia Independence Day.
The Firestone Liberia Company entered into a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia in 1926 to engage in the cultivation and exportation of rubber products, but according to its Management, the company’s operations continue to face daunting challenges; and as such, its Management has concluded to reduce their workforce.