The House of Representatives indicts Firestone Liberia of bad labor practice, but Management says the claim is due to misunderstanding.According to a report by the House Committee on Agriculture and Labor headed by Representative Prince O.S. Tokpah, they were mandated by plenary to investigate issues raised in the agriculture committee report on the operations of Bridge Firestone Liberia.
The committee notes that after thorough investigation, it was observed that Firestone is involved in bad labor practices, including poor living condition for tappers, and poor school facilities.
The committee reports that during the tour, employees pointed to lack of electricity, latrines and deplorable housing, among others. They also complained of bad labor practices such as working without overtime though they sometime work from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm on flat rate of $5.50 per day, despite working with the company for more than four years without benefiting full employment, lamenting that as a result, the contractor policy is not reliable for their old age.
According to the report, a tapper is officially assigned to 750 trees per day, but in practice, they tap latex from up to 1,500 trees daily, which is a double tile without overtime.
But appearing before the House plenary on Thursday, Firestone General Manager Emmanuel Garcia, told lawmakers that he could not speak on these issues because he had not read the report by the committee.
Garcia states that management is fully aware of the labor law and does not want to go against the law, but however argues that most of the claims brought against the company is as the result of misunderstanding.
On the question of overtime and holiday, he claims the company provides incentives for overtime and holidays, further debunking that tappers are not assigned 500 to 600 trees per day, not 700.
General Manger Garcia also admitted that they are producing furniture, and growing cocoa and coffee which are not part of the concession agreement, but the
former government allowed them because they wanted to grow varieties of crops in the plantation.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has decided that Firestone Liberia be served copy of the report for its reading and to return within two weeks with proper clarity.
By Bridgett Milton–Editing by Jonathan Browne