Liberia: Suspended Timber Union Regional Supervisor Fights Back

The suspended supervisor of the Liberia Chain Saw and Timber Dealer Union (LICSATDUN) has described his suspension as "illegal, done because I introduced an innovative idea to impact the communities where pit sawing activities are ongoing."

In a recent interview with the Daily Observer in Ganta, Nimba County, Joseph D.C. Cooper, said shortly after forming partnership agreement with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN agency advised members of the union to organize themselves into a cooperative so as to impact the lives of community dwellers with social benefits.

According to Mr. Cooper, it was based on the advice that he, as the head, organized a cooperative in the community, where he served as coordinator.

Cooper said that when he organized the cooperative, LICSATDUN took exception to the decision of organizing cooperative, arguing that their union will not benefit anything, should they bow to such an idea.

He added that in LICSATDUN, every sawyer is required to pay the registration fee of L$4,000, and that in the cooperative, the benefit goes directly to the community as part of the partnership social benefit, something Mr. Cooper said LICSATDUN members did not want to honor.

He said that in the cooperative, nearly all the benefits go to the community, while certain percentage goes to LICSATDUN as dues payment.

"Because I formulated cooperative as advised by the FAO, LICSATDUN's leadership headed by William Teage, the president, took exception to my idea, and decided to suspend me for time indefinite," Mr. Cooper said.

"I am not deterred by the suspension, and I will not apologize to anyone," he challenged.

On May 26, 2019, the leadership of LICSATDUN suspended Mr. Cooper for time indefinite for "obstructing the function of the organization."

The one-page letter of suspension, addressed to Cooper, did not define what the leadership meant by the "obstruction to the function of the organization," but requested Mr. Cooper to turn over all the organization's documents in his possession.

Mr. Teage told Truth FM in Saclepea, Nimba County in a separate interview that his leadership had on previous occasions warned Mr. Cooper, but he refused to adhere to the advice.

However, Mr. Cooper has boasted of carrying on meaningful development projects in the communities where the newly formed organization (Zodoamon Chain Saw) is operating.

"Zodoamon has carried on repairing of bridges, and does some maintenance works on roads in the community where the organization is doing pit sawing," Cooper said.

LICSATDUN is the leading chain saw and timber organization in Nimba, with headquarters in Ganta. It has several branches, divided into regions headed by a coordinators. The branches have several individuals registered and due-paying sawyers.

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