Liberia: More Concession Companies Contemplating Cutting Jobs as Economy Dwindles

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MONROVIA – Liberians, amid a collapsed economy, continue to work up each day to news of distress conditions of various companies many of which have decided to carry out major job slash in a bid to keep running.

Firestone Natural Rubber Plantation, Liberia, Monday announced it the laying off of 800 employees beginning April due to the overhead cost of operations vis-à-vis fall in profit margin resulting from slump in the price of rubber on the world market.

“After a thorough and strategic review of its current operations in Liberia, West Africa, Firestone Natural Rubber Company, an indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, Inc., has announced the difficult decision to reduce its workforce by 13% (approximately 800 employees) by early second quarter of 2019 at the company’s Firestone Liberia operation. Headcount reductions will take place throughout the company’s operations, and include retirements, the discontinuation of certain work contracts, and redundancies,” the company said in a statement.

However, Firestone is not the only company considering such drastic measure to keep afloat in the country’s dwindling economy. Several major concessions are either already instituting the similar measure or contemplating such.

Bea Mountain, a gold mining company in Grand Cape Mount County has also informed the government of Liberia that it will shortly redundant 62 employees within its construction and mining exploration departments.

In a March 12, 2019 letter to the Minister of Labor Moses Y. Kollie, a copy which FrontPage Africa has seen, the company stated that it is taking the decision because it no longer needs the existing amount of workforce.

“A decision has been made to redundant some employees of the exploration and construction departments, as work programs associated with those departments have come to an end,” the letter, signed by the company’s General Manager Debar W. Allen, states.

Currently, the exploration department has a total of 29 employees and 23 are expected to be redundant, while the construction department, which has a current total of 51 employees will see 39 persons losing their jobs.

However, the company stressed in the letter that it will conduct the redundancy in accordance with Liberia labor laws.

“Please be assured that the process will conform to the laws of the Republic and the Collective Bargaining Agreement we have with the United Workers Union of Liberia,” the letter adds.

It is unclear when the Bea Mountain redundancy will begin.

At the same time, MNG Gold, the biggest mining company in central Liberia has plans to cut staff by fifty percent. A top official of the company who asked for anonymity told FrontPageAfrica the cut will affect all nationals working with the company but Liberians would be mostly affected.

The slash in jobs, according to the company, is intended to mitigate the cost operations amid low profit margins.

The MNG Gold official, however, did not state when the redundancy at the company would take effect.

The company came under criticism by several communities of the operation area in Bong County over alleged spillage of cyanide which, according to them, affected their water bodies and subsequently caused several health issues in their communities.

The communities filed a US$285 million action of damage for wrong against the company at the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court in Gbarnga City.

A report by the National Bureau of Concession in June 2018 showed that three million gallons of diverse toxic chemicals were released in the community by MNG and will remain in the environment for decades to come.  

MNG Gold Liberia is a Turkish-Liberian gold mining company based in Kokoyah, Bong County, Liberia. It is Liberia second commercial gold mining investment.

Sime Darby – the biggest oil palm plantation company in Liberia – is an employer to most of the residents in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties. The counties are among the most impoverished in the country.

Sime Darby signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Government of Liberia to develop 220,000 ha of land in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Bong into oil palm and rubber plantations. To date, 10,508 ha has been planted in 5 estates, namely Matambo, Grand Cape Mount, Zodua, Bomi and Lofa estates.

In January put up its oil palm plantation in Liberia for sale after failing to acquire all 220,000 hectors of land the Liberian government promised as stated in the concession agreement signed about a decade ago.

The move to sell out its investment in Liberia has created pessimism about the Malaysian trading conglomerate profitability in the country.

While it is yet to sell out, Sime Darby reportedly has plans to cut about 200 jobs in April, FrontPage Africa has gathered.

President George Weah in his Annual Message this year promised to beef up the private sector by creating an enabling environment that will encourage more foreign investments in the sector.

Pres. Weah: “As I said before, and continue to say, Liberia is open for business. Under this administration the private sector will be prioritized. With the passage of the new Special Economic Zone Law, we will create one-stop shop business zones for the private sector. 

“We have for long spoken about adding value to various raw materials to create more jobs, income and livelihood for our citizens. It is time we take practical action to make it happen.

 “As part of our strategies to begin value addition, especially for light manufacturing and processing, survey of the Buchanan port has already begun on land that is allocated for the establishment of a Special Economic Zone, and in this fiscal year, we will work with our international partners to complete the feasibility studies.

“While we try to roll out these new business opportunities, we will get directly involved in improving the business climate in Liberia.

“I would like to take this time to thank all the foreign businesses operating in the country. In spite of various constraints, they continue to positively contribute to the economy in terms of revenue generations and job creations.  

“As part of this exercise, Government will continue to address constraints and challenges faced by our business community and the private sector.”  An IMF team led by Mika Saito, which visited Monrovia from February 25-March 8 to conduct discussions for the 2019 Article IV Consultation with Liberia, stated that there’s the need for creation and implementation of polices that address the current economic situation and promote strong noninflationary growth over the medium term and noted that the commencement of sales of central bank bills, supplemented by the introduction of the standing deposit and credit facilities in the interbank market, represent major milestones in modernizing the monetary policy framework. “With the appropriate preconditions firmly in place, a timely reduction of the rate of inflation to single digits appears possible. Of the necessary preconditions, the most critical is that the Government refrain from borrowing from the Central Bank,” the team noted.

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT

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