The management of Firestone Liberia, Inc. has condemned recent work stoppages and unlawful conduct including destruction of rubber trees by a number of workers on its concession here in the West African nation.
Strikers recently blocked public roads that run through the Firestone concession area cutting off vital transport routes for the country, including critical medical and emergency services aid. Authorities say the strikers also destroyed company property including structures and rubber trees.
According to company officials the disruptive actions of certain workers appear to stem from a misunderstanding about the daily average wages of tappers at the plantation. The correct minimum base wage of a tapper at Firestone Liberia is US$5.50 per day.
This amount officials say is only the base wage and does not include additional financial incentive opportunities as part of their job and in keeping with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL).
Wages at Firestone Liberia are negotiated directly with the FAWUL, and in alignment with the Decent Work Act and all applicable laws of Liberia.All work performed by Firestone Liberia tappers is done through an agreement with FAWUL and the freely elected union representatives of Firestone workers. Officials at the company maintained that the company has provided extensive clarification regarding worker pay to company employees, FAWUL representatives, and the GOL, including the Ministry of Labor and members of the House of Representatives.
However, the recent unrest also prompted the company’s management to seek more deliberate support from the FAWUL, as well as Ministries and departments of the Government of Liberia (GOL) to quickly and peacefully resolve the recent misunderstandings that have resulted in unrest at the pantation and physical damage to its operation.
“At Firestone, the safety and well-being of our employees is a top priority. We condemn acts and threats of violence, intimidation and disruptive conduct on company premises,” said Ed Garcia, President and Managing Director, Firestone Liberia. “For more than 90 years, Firestone has been a vital part of Liberia and we stand committed and willing to engage in an open and productive dialogue to listen to our workers, but always within the framework of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and in keeping with all applicable laws of Liberia. Nothing has come to our attention that indicates we are in violation of the CBA; if there is any concern, employees should follow the established and agreed upon grievance process.”
According to the statement issued over the weekend, Firestone, along with government officials and the Liberian National Police (LNP), is encouraging all employees to immediately resume normal operations to prevent long-term implications for the company’s operation, other local businesses and Liberia’s continued economic recovery.
“We respect our workers’ right to voice their opinion, but an illegal walkout, personal misconduct and destruction of company property is the wrong approach, dangerous and threatens the viability of our almost century long relationship with the country of Liberia. Walkouts have consequences and do nothing but hurt workers, their families and the Liberian economy and cause long-term damage to relationships between industry and workers’ groups,” Garcia concluded.