Monrovia — The Senate Committee Chairman on Labour, Mathew N. Jaye, has decried what he called the "unwarranted" redundancy of 400 employees by CHICO in River Gee County.
CHICO is a Chinese company that is involved in the construction of roads in the country. Currently, CHICO is carrying out the pavement of roads in River Gee County.
In a weekend interview with reporters at his Capitol Building Office in Monrovia, Senator Jaye averred that CHICO redundant the 400 employees under the canopy of the COVID-19 and the heavy down pour of rain.
The Capitol Building is the seat of the Liberian Legislature.
Lawmaker Jaye, who represents River Gee County at the Liberian Senate on an independent ticket, expressed serious outrage over the Chinese company's action, describing it as "unwarranted and sinister".
"What is most astonishing is that CHICO is carrying out serious operations in River Gee County despite the coronavirus pandemic and the heavy down pour of rain. And on the other hand, the Chinese company is employing new people," the River Gee Senator further averred.
According to him, the Labour Law states that whenever people are redundant and the company that carried out the redundancy beings to recruit, those redundant are first considered for employment, but this was not the case with the 400 employees redundant by CHICO.
"The redundancy of the 400 employees came after the workers formed a union and subsequently engaged the CHICO management on a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) as it relates to their welfare. Apparently not satisfied and felt threated by such move, the Chinese company took such action as most of those who were redundant were the architects of the formation of the workers union," the River Gee Senator told reporters.
He said it was incomprehensible and frustrating for an international company that should be buttressing the Government of Liberia(GoL) efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the country to redundant such huge number of people at the time countries around the world, including Liberia have been unhelpfully crippled economically by the deadly disease.
He lamented that the redundant CHICO employees, most of whom were "bread winners" for their families, are finding lives very unbearable as they are roaming the street of River Gee County looking for their "daily bread".
Against this backdrop, the Senate Committee Chairman on Labour vowed to present the plight of the redundant CHICO employees to the plenary of the Liberian Senate for prompt redress.
The plenary is the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate.
Senator Jaye disclosed that he will also include what he referred to as credible information available to him that the management of Firestone-Liberia is poised to redundant several of its employees.
An official communication dated June 24, 2020 and addressed to Mr. Abraham D. Nimene , President of the Agriculture, Agro-Processing and Industrial Workers Union of Liberia(AAIWUL) by the management of Firestone-Liberia via its Director, Human Resources, Madam Winleta A. Henries, a copy of which was given to the media, informed AAIWUL of its Anticipated Personnel Reductions at Firestone-Liberia.
"As per previous discussions with you and members of the union. Firestone-Liberia's operations continue to face serious challenges, and as a result, our management team must make necessary decisions to help ensure the viability of the company in Liberia. As part of the above referenced decisions, Firestone-Liberia anticipates a reduction in its workforce headcount of approximately Three Seventy-Four (374) employees, primarily from our Estate Department," the communication further informed AAIWUL.
According to the communication, the effective date of this redundancy action is scheduled for July 26, 2020.
As we prepare for this process, we respectfully request the cooperation of the union, to ensure that the same is conducted in a manner that is consistent with the laws of the Republic of Liberia, but more importantly, so that these difficult decisions cause the least adverse impact to those directly affected," the communication, among other things, added.
However, AAIWUL, in response, categorically rejected the Anticipated Notice of Redundancy.
"Firestone-Liberia calculated attempt to burst the Union by turning gainful employees into casual laborers through these redundancy notices is deceptive and only meant to motivate corporate greed at the expense of the ordinary workers whose labors generate wealth," the communication dated June 26, 2020 and addressed to the AAIWUL leadership, a copy of which was also given to the media, stated.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee Chairman on Labour has expressed fear that the CHICO redundant saga and the expected Firestone-Liberia layoff, if not addressed urgently by the government, could pose serious threat to the peace and stability of the country, adding: " Jobless people are angry people".
At the same time, the River Gee lawmaker thanked the GoL- the single largest employer in the public sector for the bold the steps it took to ensure that all non-essential employees, who were asked to stay home in keeping with social distance and the adherence of other key health protocols, are being paid why they are home. He described the move by the GoL as highly commendable and must be hailed by all Liberians irrespective of their political, social and religion backgrounds.