Liberia: Rep. Tarponweh Condemns Firestone’s Redundancy Plan, Terms Action as ‘Clever Game’ Intended to Escape Responsibilities
Monrovia – Representative Tibelrosa Tarponweh of District #1, Margibi County says there is some level of dishonesty in Firestone Liberia’s justification for its planned decision to lay off 374 employees of the company’s estate department.
Report by Emmanuel Tokpah, Contributing Writer
Rep. Tarponweh, who chairs the House Statutory Committee on Concession and Investment, has been a leading advocate for the employees who have been earmarked to be fired.
The company’s action over the last year, he said, is a clever attempt to escape its responsibilities as enshrined in the concession agreement signed between the company and the Government of Liberia.
Appearing on a local radio station in Monrovia recently, Tarponweh said Firestone downsized 800 employees last year under the pretense of “facing serious challenges” and later subcontracted companies to rehire those redundant employees, but denying them their health, education, housing and other benefits.
“In 2019, Firestone laid off over 800 employees under the pretense of facing serious challenges. According to our information and demonstrated evidence, the Company immediately brought in their own revolving door approach by rehiring these same redundant workers as contractors to implement the same work they were redundant from,” he claimed.
“That only creates many doubts. Is there any master-plan Firestone has about this redundancy issue? I think it is not a redundancy, but a clever game to deviate from their obligations embedded within the concession agreement.”
Commenting on the condition of the workers in the Company’s plantations, Rep. Tarponweh lamented that because of the unfavorable working condition, the shoulders of most of the tappers are deformed.
According to him, the tappers use their shoulders to carry latex from their tapping sites to the latex weighing stations — covering distances for more than 30 minutes.
This medium of transporting latex has been in existence from the inception of the company’s operation almost 100 years ago.
Firestone entered into a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia in 1926 to engage in the cultivation and exportation of rubber products. The agreement has been reviewed several times that have made the company to improve employees’ incentives.
But the management says the company’s operations continue to face daunting challenges due to the decrease in the price of rubber.
Since its announcement of the redundancy plan in 2020, the company has come under staunch criticism from the House of Representatives.
During the appearance of the company’s top management before the House on June 14, 2020, plenary put a halt to the company’s redundancy plan pending a legislative inquest into its planned action.
The Management’s appearance was based on a communication from Rep. Tarponweh, entreating the indulgence of the Plenary to invite the Management of Firestone to state reasons for its anticipated action.
The company was also requested to produce its five-year financial reports and other subcontracting documents as part of the investigation.