20 March 2019

Liberia: Over Fire Stone's Redundancy - House Summons Labor Minister

Margibi County District #2 Representative Ivar Jones said said the decision to lay-off 800 employees amid the bad economy, "is troubling and provoking."

The House of Representatives has summoned Labour Minister Moses Kollie, to appear before that august body on Thursday, March 21, during its 21st day sitting, to give a status report on the laying off of 13 percent (approximately 800 employees) by the second quarter by Firestone-Liberia operations, and the way forward.

The sitting will be held in a regular or executive session, according to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, but many persons are of the view that the Thursday's session should be an open one, because of the sensitivity of the redundancy of 800 employees from Firestone-Liberia.

Nimba County District #5 Representative Samuel Kogar, proffered the motion for the agenda to be used at Tuesday's session, but Margibi County District #2 Representative, Ivar Jones, said he was not ready to support the motion, a situation which was supported by other Representatives, thus putting the entire session in confusion. Some of the lawmakers were demanding that the redundancy exercise be included on the agenda.

Labor Minister Moses Kollie to appear on Thursday, March 21, during the House 21st day sitting to give a "Status Report on the laying off of 800 workers by Firestone Liberia.

According to Speaker Chambers, to ease the commotion, the issue will be discussed in an executive session and that the Labor Minister will appear before the august body on Thursday to give an updated status report; a decision that was unanimously agreed by plenary.

Rep. Jones, in whose district Firestone is located, said Firestone-Liberia's decision in the wake of the current bad economy is "troubling and provoking."

"Let's assume each of the 800 employees has a family size of about 10; so we can say about 8,000 Liberians will be suffering. This is frustrating," Rep. Jones said.

According to a Firestone Liberia press release, issued March 18th, "the action is necessary due to continued and unsustainable losses resulting from high overhead costs associated with the company's Concession Agreement with the Liberian government; low natural rubber production because of the country's prolonged civil wars, and continued low global natural rubber prices."

Firestone-Liberia says it has been working closely with the Ministry of Labor and the Agricultural Agro-Processing and the Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL) to ensure that employees made redundant as part of its action will be done in accordance with all applicable Liberian labor laws, company policies, and the company's collective bargaining agreement with AAIWUL.

"Unfortunately, these measures alone will not be enough to restore Firestone-Liberia to profitability. As a result, the company will continue to evaluate all aspects of its business to ensure long-term competitiveness and determine the best allocation of company resources to optimize our portfolio, processes, and culture," the company said.

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