Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: In Grand Bassa County - Citizens Demand Employment, Others From BR, But...

Citizens of the port city of Buchanan and Big Joe Town, Grand Bassa County have decried what they called the management of Buchanan Renewable (BR) inability to create more permanent employment opportunity for them (citizens).

According to the citizens, who spoke to this writer recently, many of the jobs provided by the company are only on a contractual basis, and not permanent employment.

BR is a privately owned renewable resources and energy company with two core businesses in Liberia. Buchanan Renewables Fuel (BR Fuel) was said to be a biomass producer for power production by converting unproductive rubber trees into woodchips. The company exports its woodchips to power utilities that use them to reduce their fossil based emissions by substituting biomass for coal. BR Fuel, it was said, ensures the sustainability of its business by making sure that at least one tree is replanted for every tree removed.

In the future, the company says unproductive rubber wood will also be used to fuel the 36 megawatt power plant that Buchanan Renewables Power (BR Power) plans to build near Kakata, Liberia. BR Power's plant will produce affordable, reliable base load power in Liberia using renewable, domestic feedstock, said the company, but BR is yet to turn on a single light bulb through its biomass power production program since its coming to Liberia.

"While we appreciate BR for providing something for our people to make earns meet, we would also love were they to improve upon that creating more jobs, especially on a permanent basis. As people of this county in which this company operates, employment should be one benefits for us," commented one Sarah Gueh.

The citizens also contended that the company has also failed to provide social services for its employees and people of the county at large, terming it as a "bad labor practice".

"We want the company to take care of its workers as other companies are doing. Besides salary, there are no other benefits for the people such as medication, education for their children and even housing facilities. Even people of this county should get social benefit from this company's operation," said a fiancée of an employee who begged not to be named.

But in response to similar claims against the company by some female employees several weeks ago, the management of BR through its Public Relations office, described allegations of bad labor practices as "misleading and unfounded".

In a statement issued in Monrovia recently, the BR management said, as a responsible corporate institution, it operates in strict compliance with the labor laws of Liberia and international best practices.

"Buchanan Renewables' number one core value is the safety and wellbeing of its employees. The company regularly and systematically demonstrates our position on safety through the periodic sensitization of employees on safety issues. Additionally, our regular supply of the appropriate safety equipment to employees is a further testament to our commitment to ensuring a safe workplace.

The Company has distributed thousands of copies of our newsletter to employees and communities emphasizing our position on creating a safe work environment. By the same token, we are aware however that despite these efforts, some employees are in the habit of either refusing to wear their safety equipment or selling the safety equipment we provide - a practice that management strongly frowns on and continues to address through education and disciplinary actions," said the BR statement.

The BR management pointed out that the matter concerning employees' compensation are dealt with the utmost confidentiality. "We will, however, say that BR 's employees' salaries are very competitive and in many instances twice the minimum wage rate established by the labor laws of Liberia.

Furthermore, Buchanan Renewables is committed to the collective bargaining agreement signed between the Management and our employees in September of this year; as witnessed by the deputy Minister of Labor. The CBA clearly addresses the issue of salary increases and other conditions of employment including safety. We are proud that to say BR management has already begun implementing the provisions of the CBA, which set a specific time frame for each action, as agreed by both parties," the company added.

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