Liberia: House Summons Firestone Management Over Plan to Layoff 347 Workers

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Representative Tarponweh further that it is not in the best interest of the Firestone management to abruptly announce a redundancy scheme without consulting the relevant government agencies or authorities, including the Liberia Legislature.

MONROVIA – The Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Statutory Committee on Investment & Concessions, Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh has instructed the chief clerk of the   House of Representatives, Madam Mildred N. Sayon to invite the Senior Management Team of Firestone Liberia, Inc. to a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 1, 2020 at the Capitol.

The Committee’s meeting, which will also be attended by the Legislative Caucus of Margibi County, was prompted by the anticipated decision of Firestone Liberia to reduce her labor force by 374 employees from the Estates Department effective July 26, 2020.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Chairman of the House Statutory Committee on Investment and Concessions, Representative Tarponweh said it is unfortunate to see Firestone lay-off some of their employees in the face of the rampaging COVID-19 global Pandemic which is negatively impacting the national economy.

“While the Government and people of Liberia value the long-standing partnership with Firestone Liberia, I see a contradiction in its stated objective by reducing its workforce due to the low price of rubber on the world market and its revolving door approach to replace redundant workers with contract workers.”

Rep. Tibelrosa Tarponweh, Chairman of the House Statutory Committee on Investment and Concessions

Representative Tarponweh further lamented that it is not in the best interest of the Firestone management to abruptly announce a redundancy scheme without consulting the relevant government agencies or authorities, including the Liberia Legislature.

In expressing his frustration over the Management’s decision, Representative Tarponweh said “Reducing cost to protect the long-term viability of the company cannot be done at an undue expense of our people.

“In concert with its oversight responsibility to intervene and investigate national Investment and concessional matters, the House of Representatives’ Statutory Committee on Investment and Concessions hereby encourages all parties (Firestone Liberia and its Employees) to remain calm as the Committee is exerting all efforts to engage relevant authorities so as to respect and preserve the rights of all.”

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; and as such, its Management has concluded to reduce their work force.

Within the company’s recent notice communicated to key stakeholders on June 24, 2020, the Firestone Liberia Company explained that it anticipates a reduction in its workforce headcount of approximately three hundred seventy-four (374) employees emanating from the Company’s Estate Department.

However, the Lawmaker has questioned the company’s reason for the anticipated redundancy, stating that the company’s first redundant workers were replaced with contractors.

Rep.  Tarponweh: “While the Government and people of Liberia value the long-standing partnership with Firestone Liberia, I see contradiction in its stated objective by reducing its workforce due to the low price of rubber on the world market and its revolving door approach to replace redundant workers with contract workers. That deviates from Firestone Liberia Company recent reviewed and confirmed Concession Agreement. I think it is not in the company’s best interest to abruptly announce redundancy without consulting relevant government agencies or authorities, including the Liberian Legislature. Reducing cost to protect the long term viability of the company cannot be done at an undue expense of our people.”

On March 18, 2019, Firestone-Liberia Company, through its press release, said it will reduce its staff by 13 percent, or approximately 800 employees, at the early quarter of 2019 due to several constraints including a fall in the rubber price on the world market. Reports have indicated that the company began implementing its plan with over 300 workers being laid off so far and replacing them with contractors.

The reports of the anticipated redundancy have caused serious anxiety, limbo among workers within the concession area. Firestone, an indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas, covers almost 200 square miles east of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

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