Liberia: Firestone Liberia Defends Layoff Action, Fails to Honor House of Representatives’ Citation

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Management of Firestone Liberia has informed the House of Representatives that its ongoing redundancy action has been approved by the Government of Liberia through the Minister of Labor and the joint working group designated by President George Weah to negotiate with the company in finding a workable solution.

In a communication to the House of Representatives, the company, through its General Manager, Don Darden said the process was approved following several negotiations with the Ministry of Labor, the joint working group and representatives of the Firestone workers’ union.

“It was agreed by the steering committee that the workforce reduction was being carried out in accordance with the laws, and that the management of Firestone Liberia was given the full go ahead to proceed with its redundancy process as agreed by all parties involved and approved by the Ministry of Labor,” the company wrote in its letter to plenary.”

Since the company announced its plan to redundant 374 workers this year, the House of Representatives has intervened on several occasions in order to save the workers from losing their jobs in the midst of the economic hardship that is being exacerbated by COVID-19.

Members of Margibi County Legislative Caucus have termed the company’s decision to enter into agreement with subcontractors who will in turn rehire some of these redundant workers for tapping as a strategy to shy away from its corporate responsibilities.

They argued that rehired workers will be denied of the benefits such as education and health by these subcontractors.

In July 2020, the House, following a legislative inquest, placed a stay order on Firestone’s plan until it can submit a comprehensive redundancy plan to the Ministry of Labor that will be in line with the labor laws of Liberia.

The company’s top management was also requested to reappear before plenary with records of its transactions over the last five years.

But it did not appear and following a communication from Representatives Tibelrosa Tarponweh of Margibi County on Tuesday, informing plenary of the company’s violation of the stay order, Firestone was summoned under contempt charges to appear on Thursday, September 3 with its lawyer.

However, the management, in the communication said it was unable to appear at the scheduled plenary hearing because of unavoidable business commitments.

Majority members of the House in Thursday’s sitting expressed their disenchantments over the ‘company’s defiance’ and voted unanimously in favor of a motion proffered by Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba County District #9, citing the company’s top management to appear on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 to show why it should not be held in contempt for the actions.

Earlier, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers informed plenary that staffers at the company’s sub-office in Monrovia Tuesday, September 2, 2020 refused to accept the House’s letter inviting Firestone management on grounds that it does not handle administrative matters.

Speaker Chambers said he was constraint to use his pilot vehicle to deliver the communication to the company’s headquarters in Harbel, Margibi County. 

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