Firestone Liberia, an indirect subsidiary of Bridgestone Americas Inc., yesterday announced it will reduce its workforce at the Harbel facility by approximately 500 employees, or roughly 7% of its regular workforce, as a result of the company’s ongoing significant and unsustainable losses at its Liberia-based natural rubber producing operation.
A statement from the company says “continued low natural rubber prices, high overhead costs associated with the company’s concession agreement with the Government of Liberia, low production as a result of the inability to plant during the country’s 14-year civil wars, and the country’s uncertain business climate are the primary reasons for the continuing financial losses.”
The massive layoffs, “the most broad reductions” Firestone says it has had “since the 1980s,” are scheduled to take place between August and October of 2016.
“Our employees are very important to us and making any change to our operations and employees is an incredibly difficult decision for our leadership team,” said Ed Garcia, president and managing director of Firestone Liberia. “We remain committed to the country and people of Liberia, and our main priority is to ensure the long-term sustainability of our operation.”
Employees who are separated from the company will be provided a severance package in keeping with applicable laws of Liberia and the company’s collective bargaining agreement with the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL), the company said.
Firestone Liberia will continue to implement a number of other measures to cut costs in its operation, including streamlining of the company’s business functions to reduce expenses, improving operational efficiencies, and discontinuing company employee-tapping operations in certain very old and low-producing areas of the concession.
“Since 2004,” the company says, “Firestone Liberia has injected more than $1 billion USD into the Liberian economy through government taxes, salaries and pensions, local purchases and rubber purchases from local farmers, and has spent over $75 million in providing free education, healthcare, housing and security.”