Liberia: House Speaker Bhofal Chambers Leads Lawmakers in Condemning Firestone’s Decision to Lay off Employees

Speaker Bhofal Chambers told the management of Firestone its decision is not only inhumane but similar to strangulating a helpless person to death, just as in the case of the late George Floyd.

Capitol Hill, Monrovia – House Speaker Bhofal Chambers has led members of the House of Representatives in condemning Firestone Liberia’s anticipated action to lay off 374 employees on Liberia’s Independence Day- July 26.

Speaker Chambers, speaking to the management of Firestone Liberia led by its General Manager, Don Darden in Plenary on Tuesday, July 13, said the company’s decision is not only inhumane but similar to strangulating a helpless person to death, just as in the case of the late George Floyd.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020 during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill.

Footage of the arrest on 25 May shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck while he was pinned to the floor, as he cried “I can’t breathe.” His death led to widespread condemnation and mass protests in the United States and around the world.

“We want it to be a message that you should ceased and desist. The people of Liberia are saying that it is inappropriate to do that now,” the Speaker said in his closing remarks.

“The issue can be analogous to that of [George] Floyd. It is just like you put the knee to the neck [of a helpless person]. Mr. Darden, in these moments, I think Firestone is under obligation to do something decent for the Liberian people.”

Following a lengthy grilling of the management, the Plenary of the House of Representatives put a halt to Firestone’s decision to lay off 374 employees pending the conclusion of its ongoing investigation in the company’s decision.

The decision was based on a motion by Rep. Acarous Gray (District #8, Montserrado County). Following series of amendments to Gray’s motion, plenary called on the company to reappear in open session next Tuesday with all sub-contractual agreements it has signed with other entities, along with its financial records for the past five years.

The management of Firestone, along with the Ministers of Justice and Labor had been invited by plenary to give substantive reasons about its planned action.

Taking the witness’ stand, the General Manager of Firestone, Don Darden told the lawmakers that the decision of the company to cut its workforce was necessary to preserve the sustainability of the company’s operations in Liberia.

But Labor Minister Moses Kollie said the company has not provided any convincing instrument to the ministry to grant its request.

Speaking on the floor, Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh of Margibi County District #1, who authored the communication to invite the management said Liberia has valued Firestone but it has failed to give back to Liberians. He called on plenary to stop the company for implementing its planed action.

Several lawmakers including Representatives Edward Karfia of Bong County, Ellen Attoh, Ben Fofana, Ivar Jones all of Margibi, along with Mariamu Fofana and Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County also condemned the company’s decision.