Workers of Cavalla Rubber Corporation Living under Appalling Condition

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Report by Willie N. Tokpa, [email protected]

Plebo, Maryland County – Cavalla Rubber Corporation, one of Liberia’s largest rubber plantations, has come in the spotlight once again for not living up to bulk of its social development agreements, as workers of the company continue to complain about the bad livelihood conditions in the concession area.

In its social development agreement, the company is expected to provide good healthcare, education and good housing facilities for its staffers.

But the company is paying deaf ears to constant concerns of its workforce and affected communities.

Employees of the CRC are becoming weary of maltreatment and the appalling condition of their housing units.

But the company, through its chief finance officer Alain Seri, has denied the claims, saying, “There is no bad labor practice at CRC.”

Investigation by FrontPage Africa at CRC recently found that there is inadequate healthcare, latrine facilities and safe drinking water in the concession area.

Some workers at the only health center ran by both CRC and Maryland Oil Palm Planation (MOPP) complained of working over in time in dual roles due to insufficient workforce.

A staff, who preferred not to be named, expressed disenchantment over the company’s refusal to pay workers’ for overtime.

“Bulk of the health workers here are not real professionals, I mean doctors – so some of the cases can be taken away from here to other hospitals like Tapita or Monrovia. The road is bad and before you reach someone to that distance, they might not be living again,” the source said.

Unstable electricity at the health center and insufficient drugs to treat patients are among some of the challenges.

In the concession agreement with the Liberian government, CRC and MOPP are two separate companies and are expected to fulfill their respective social corporate responsibilities.

But the CRC management insists since MOPP is a sister company, they both share corporate obligations to the communities.

“MOPP is our sister company, this is the reason they are using the same health center for now,” Alain Seri, CRC financial officer said.

In one of the camps constructed for workers, dubbed Hospital Camp has over 500 residents, there is a hand pump serving as the only source of safe drinking water and two pit-latrines serving the entire camp.

Residents there are also complaining about unstable electricity while family heads live in single rooms with close-fitting hall-way, usually used as kitchen.

Locals are also furious with the company for allegedly importing foreign workers from neighbouring Ivory Coast to do skilled and unskilled contracts, leaving out capable Liberians who are best suited for said jobs.

The aggrieved employees also claim that bulk of those holding senior managerial positions are also being recruited from across the border.

Oldpa Benson, a rubber tapper, said the living condition of workers on the company speaks contrary to its social contract signed with government.

Benson said they still regret over government’s refusal to legally compel CRC to live up to its social mandate, thereby constraining several hundreds of its citizens to live in destitution.

He told FPA it is inhumane for the company “dependable health center to provide me poor treatment while I am undergoing serious medical problem”.

“I came here since this morning and no one to attend to me. It was just few minutes ago that one of the workers brought me two pills of tablets. I told them that my private part was hurting and could not allow me to work, but they are telling me to go to work tomorrow,” Benson explained.

A child of an employee, who gave FPA a guided tour of his father’s unit, said he and his siblings sleep in the open space of the house because there’s only a room for their parents.

He said children are sometimes denied from using the two-room latrine.

However, CRC has condemned some of the assertions while at the same time admitting to several others.

Mr. Seri noted that getting a data on the company’s operation is difficult, but noted that it has committed itself to the social agreement signed with the Liberia government.

He said CRC had been committed to community development by providing US$36,000 yearly, revealing that only two community development projects were implemented between the periods 2016 to 2018.

He named the construction of a school and mortuary for community dwellers as the project, and said since it began operations in 2011 there are still social development funds in the account.

In addition to the projects, CRC also stated that US$59,000 is paid to the William V.S. Tubman University as scholarship fees and US$18,422 is set aside to address tuition payment of children in affected communities.

Seri named the construction of three schools and a health center as some other developments the company has carried out over the years, but did not speak about contribution to constructing feeder roads within the concession area.

CRC admitted to lack of effective equipment that would address serious health emergency, but said it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia and the Tapita Hospital in Nimba County for referral cases.

“We don’t have all of the equipment here, but we have drugs which are used for treatment of our staffs. In the case of emergencies, we have signed an MOU JFK and Tapita Hospitals for referral,” Seri said. “Contrary to not having electricity, we have 24 hours electricity system here.”

The management also admitted that contracts are being awarded to foreigners, which he said was limited to painting of buildings.

Management took the decision so that these foreign nationals would help train Liberian workers at the company to do professional painting, he said.

Responding to concerns of overtime, he said: “We do have staffs here, who work overtime but they are paid for their extra services. We will not address all of the problems at once because we have so many other camps here.”

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