Margibi County Legislative Caucus’ Chairperson Welcomes Court Ruling In Favor of Firestone Retirees
Kakata, Margibi County – The Chairperson of the Margibi County Legislative Caucus Representative, Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh has expressed delight over the 13th Judiciary Circuit Court’s ruling ordering Firestone Liberia Company to restore retroactively and pay the retirement benefits of its retirees.
Emmanuel Tokpah, Contributing Writer
Representative Tarponweh said the ruling from the court has validated his past argument that Firestone is illegally and unjustifiably avoiding its responsibilities by using the Decent Work Act as a “refuge”.
He further asserted that the ruling is a clear victory for not only retirees but for future retirees whom themselves are looking forward to their just retirement benefits.
“Today, we are celebrating the victory of the Firestone retirees. Our proposed amendment of the Decent Work Act is basically about that. We don’t want employers sending retirees to National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) unjustifiably,” he said.
“What happened to the contract the employer and employee signed for retirement after 25 years of service as an employee? Retirement pension payment by employers to their employees should not be linked to National Social Security and Welfare Corporation which is a contributory scheme. This is wrong. NASSCORP pension payment is separate from the pension payment by employers to their employees.”
He accused the company of misapplying the Decent Work Act to avoid responsibility as only the court can interpret.
“Thank God that the court has stepped in. Of course, at the beginning, it seemed like justice was being denied because this case has been languishing in the court for the past two years, leaving many hopeless and dead during their time of frustration”.
On Tuesday, June 22, the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Margibi County ruled that Firestone, the respondent restore retroactively and pay the pension benefits of its retirees, the petitioners.
The court’s ruling came following a petition of declaratory judgment filed in by Firestone retirees opposing the company’s decision to redirect its retirees’ pension payments to the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation since 2019.
“Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, this court declares as follows:
I. That the memoranda dated December 12, 2016 and December 17, 2016 captioned ‘Verification of Firestone Pensioners’ and ‘Retirees Pensions’ are hereby declared null and void and of no legal effect; That petitioners are entitled to receive their full retirement pensions from co-respondent Firestone and accordingly, co-respondent Firestone is ordered to resume the payment of petitioners’ retirement pensions retrospective as of March 1, 2016; That petitioners can undergo no condition forfeit their retirement pensions, and cost of these proceedings rule against respondent.”
But on the flipside of the coin following the court’s action, Firestone Liberia expressed shock and disappointment over the court’s ruling and vowed to take an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia.
“We are shocked and disappointed that the Thirteenth Judiciary Circuit Court, Margibi County did not rule in favor of Firestone in a pension case involving former employees of the company. The claim made by ‘the Retirees of Firestone Liberia’ to receive double pensions is contrary to law as clearly stipulated by the Decent Work Act of the Republic of Liberia, and confirmed by the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation-who was joined in the case with Firestone Liberia. As such, Firestone Liberia will now take this case to the Supreme Court to seek justice in the matter”, Firestone Liberia said in its release.
Representative Tarponweh has been a lead advocate for Firestone workers and staunch critic against the “company’s bad labor practices.”
In July 2020, the Margibi County District One Lawmaker communicated with his colleagues at the House of Representatives drawing their attention to the company’s decision to downsize over 347 of its employees, which subsequently led to the Firestone Management appearance before the Plenary of the House of Representatives.
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. But the Margibi County Legislative Caucus Chairperson argued that the company’s action to lay off their employees and replaced them with contractors was a clever attempt by the company to escape their responsibilities to their employees as enshrined in the concession agreement signed between the company and the Government of Liberia.
The House’s Committees on Labor and Judiciary are currently debating a proposed amendment of the Decent Work Act drafted by Rep. Tarponweh.
The proposed amendment among other things, seeks to amend sections 22.1, 30b, 30.2a, and chapters 22,30, and 37 of the Decent Work Act of 2015.