The New Dawn (Monrovia)

20 February 2013

Liberia: Strike Continues At Sime Darby

Normal work at the Sime Darby Plantation in western Liberia has been stalled for the second week running, affecting the company's operations. David Kolleh, one of the spokespersons for the Plantation, confirmed the workers' action, but added that negotiations were ongoing to resolve the matter.

Kolleh could not state who was talking to whom (negotiating) and to what extent they may have gone in terms of reaching a compromise. The Sime Darby workforce is pressing for better salaries and improved working conditions, having accused management of bad labor practice.

Industrialize or concessional strikes are common nowadays in post- conflict Liberia, most of them due to labor abuse and other forms of dehumanization. Workers had downed tools occasionally at Arcelor Mittal, Buchanan Renewable, China Union, Cocopa Rubber Plantation, Putu Mining Company, Golden Veroleum, and SIFCA, amongst others.

At Sime Darby Plantation-Liberia, which started operations following the renewal of its terms and conditions, this is a frequent occurrence. The Sime Darby Group entered Liberia in 2008 and successfully renewed the terms and conditions of the old concession agreement with the Government of Liberia.

In 2009, through its subsidiary, Sime Darby Plantation signed a 63-year concession agreement with the Government of Liberia for 220,000 hectares of land to be developed into oil palm and rubber plantations. The company's activities are being carried out in four counties: Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Bong and Gbarpolu, respectively.

Under the concession agreement, Sime Darby needs to work with smallholders to develop an additional 44,000 hectares under an Outgrowers' Scheme. This scheme is designed to assist smallholders and local communities, a programme that is similar to Malaysia's extremely successful Felda programme.

In accordance with its standard operating procedures, Sime Darby Plantation-Liberia was to undertake Social & Environmental Impact Assessments (SEIA) before any development begins.

The company's involvement in Liberia began in 1977 when Kumpulan Guthrie provided technical and management expertise to the government-owned Liberian Rubber Processing Corporation.

In 1980, Kumpulan Guthrie acquired BF Goodrich's concession area. In 1981, Guthrie Plantations was incorporated to develop 20,000 acres of concession land into a rubber plantation; TKS writes.

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