Over Plan To Lay Off 374 Employees: House Cites Firestone Management And Two Gov’t Ministers
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 on Tuesday, July 14 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 plenary of the House of Representatives unanimously took the decision following a communication from the House’s Chairman on Investment and Concessions, Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, entreating the indulgence of the plenary to invite the management of Firestone Liberia, Inc. to state reasons for their anticipated determination, which tends to affect the livelihoods of over three hundred (300) Liberian citizens.
Explaining details of his communication on the floor, Representative 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 explained that Firestone’s reason for their previous redundancy has created many doubts than answers and, as such, their redundancy has caused harm to many Liberian citizens within their employ, especially during the period of this global pandemic.
“We are raising this issue because our fellow citizens will be affected if we do not act now. What Firestone did created more doubts than answers. 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,” The Margibi County district #1 lawmaker lamented.
Other lawmakers, including Representative Ivar K. Jones, Margibi County’s district #2, Representative Ben A. Fofana, Margibi County’s district #4, Representative Ellen Attoh Wreh, Margibi County’s district #3, and Representative Samuel Kogar, Nimba County’s district #4 expressed dissatisfaction and accused the company of passively raising the citizens against the government.
The Firestone Liberia Company entered into a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia (GOL) 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; as such, they have concluded to reduce their workforce.
Within the company’s notice communicated to key stakeholders on June 24, 2020, the Firestone Liberia 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.
The Margibi County district #1 lawmaker, through the House of Representatives’ Statutory Committee on Concessions and Investment, invited the management of Firestone Liberia Company to a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, 2020 for the first floor conference room of Capitol Building. The Margibi County Legislative Caucus members were also part of the meeting.
During the committee’s meeting with Firestone, the lawmakers called on the management of Firestone Liberia Company to halt their anticipated decision so that thorough investigation can be conducted.
The Chairman on the House’s Committee on Investment and Concessions, addressing a team of journalists on Capitol Hill following the committee’s meeting with Firestone, disclosed that the committee found inconsistencies in the management’s statement by downsizing employees and retiring the very employees as contractors. “This indicates that the workers and their dependents will not be eligible to housing, medical, education and other benefits,” the Chairman of the committee said.
Following views from lawmakers during Tuesday’s sitting, Nimba County’s district #1 lawmaker, Representative, Jeremiah Koung, proffered a motion to invite the management of Firestone along with the Minsters of Labor and Justice to appear before House’s plenary on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
The report of the anticipated redundancy has caused anxiety among workers within the concession area.
Firestone, an indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, covers almost 200 square miles east of Monrovia.