House Summons Firestone Management, Two Govt. Ministers over Decision to Lay Off 374 Employees

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By Emmanuel TJ Kollie (Intern)

The House of Representatives has summoned the Firestone Management along with Labor Minister Moses Kollie and Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean to appear before the House’s Plenary this Tuesday to explain details of the Firestone-Liberia Company’s anticipated decision to redundant approximately three hundred seventy-four (374) employees primarily from the Company’s Estate Department.

The House unanimously took the decision following a communication from the House’s Chairman on Investment and Concessions, Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh,  entreating the indulgence of the plenary to invite the Management of Firestone Liberia to state reasons for her anticipated determination tends to affect the livelihoods of over three hundred (300) Liberians.

Rep. Tarponweh said the Company’s action to outsource their co-work (tapping) without authorization is a violation of Section 14.5 of the Decent Work Act of Liberia.

He further narrated that Firestone’s reason for their previous redundancy has created many doubts than answers, and as such, their redundancy has caused harm to many Liberians within their employ especially during this period of a global health emergency.

“We are raising this issue because our fellow citizens will be affected if we do not act now. In 2019, Firestone laid off over 300 employees under the pretense of low production. The Company brought in their own revolving door approach by hiring these same redundant workers as contractors without benefits.

What we see our partners doing is being creative by harming our people. Let Firestone be requested to explain why they are outsourcing their co-work without authorization. It signals violation,” Rep. Tarponweh said.

Other Lawmakers including Rep. Ivar K. Jones of Margibi County District #2, Rep. Ben A. Fofana of Margibi County District #4, Rep. Ellen  Attoh Wreh of Margibi County District #3, and Rep. Samuel Kogar of Nimba County District #5 expressed dissatisfaction and accused the Company of passively inciting the citizens against the government.

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.

Within the company’s notice communicated to key stakeholders on June 24, 2020, the Company explained that it anticipates a reduction in its workforce headcount of approximately three hundred seventy-four (374) employees emanating from the Company’s Estate Department.

During a recent meeting between the House’s Committee on Concessions and Investment and the Management of Firestone, the Lawmakers called on the Company to halt their anticipated decision so that a thorough investigation can be conducted.

The Committee Chairman, after the meeting, told journalists that the Committee found inconsistencies in the Management’s statement by downsizing employees and retiring these employees as contractors. This indicates that the workers and their dependents will not be eligible for housing, medical, education, and other benefits.

Following views from Lawmakers during the Tuesday Sitting, Nimba County District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung proffered a motion to invite the Management of Firestone along with the Ministers of Labor and Justice to appear before House’s Plenary on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

The reports of the anticipated redundancy have caused serious anxiety among workers within the concession area.

Firestone, an indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, covers almost 200 square miles east of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia