Monrovia – The Supreme Court of Liberia has commenced hearing an appeal filed by the Management of Firestone Liberia. The appeal came following the ruling of the 13th Judiciary Circuit Court in Margibi County in June this year, ordering the company’s management to restore retroactively and pay the retirement benefits of its retirees.
During the Supreme Court’s hearing on Thursday, lawyer representing Firestone Management prayed the court to discontinue the hearing and allow the appearance of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), co-defendant for clarity.
Cllr. J. Johnny Momo who represented the Firestone retirees, on the other hand, argued that the Supreme Court should proceed with the hearing. According to him, the judgement from the 13th Judiciary Circuit Court was wholly made against the Defendant, Firestone Liberia Management.
Following intense deliberations between the two lawyers, Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor suspended the hearing for two weeks.
“NASSCORP is a necessary party to this case because they were joined in as Co-defendant at the Lower Court. This court has always insisted that parties appear so that justice is properly served. The clerk of this court is hereby instructed to issue another notice of assignment. This matter is suspended,” said Chief Justice Korkpor.
The court proceedings were also graced by retirees, residents and several officials of Margibi including the head of the County’s Legislative Caucus, Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, who has been a lead advocate for Firestone workers and staunch critic against the company’s alleged bad labor practices, was seen witnessing the court proceedings.
Following the suspension of the hearing, Rep. Tarponweh said he is optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Firestone retirees. The Margibi District One Lawmaker cautioned the retirees to remain law abiding and assured them that his advocacy will continue so that justice is properly served.
“I am pleased that I was in attendance but also disappointed because we went there to see our people get justice,” he said. “We thought it would have been a full hearing into the case. However, I want our people to understand that justice is in sight.”
He added: “From all of our research, we do not think NASSCORP has much to say in this case. NASSCORP only comes in when employees turn sixty 60 years old. This one, we are talking about a private contract entered into by Firestone Liberia and their employees. This obligates Firestone to pay retirement benefits to their employees when they work for 25 years.
In 2019, the Firestone retirees filed in a declaratory judgment opposing the company’s decision to stop paying them and redirect their pension payments to the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP). On June 22, 2021, the 13th Judiciary Circuit Court in Kakata ruled that Firestone, the respondent restore retroactively and pay the pension benefits of its retirees, the petitioners.
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 in Monrovia.