The management of Firestone has paid off 189 employees out of the 500 to be affected in its current downsizing action. However, the affected employees have appealed to the leadership of the Firestone Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) to intervene on their behalf.
The management of the company last Monday began implementing its decision to complete the layoff process affecting 189 workers and has asked them to vacate its premises within 15 days.
According to information from FAWUL, most of the workers affected are tappers in Divisions 22 and 23. Yesterday, August 7, they gathered at FAWUL’s office in Harbel, requesting the Union’s leadership to speak for them because they say their benefits from Firestone cannot relocate and resettle them in such a short period of time.
FAWUL’s president, Mr. Harris Kerkulah, said his office is not happy with the redundancy but called on the affected workers to remain calm as his leadership is planning an immediate joint meeting with the Margibi County Legislative Caucus, local county authorities, the Ministry of Labor and the Firestone management to look into the matter.
Mr. Kerkulah said the management of Firestone began discussing the redundancy last September during a meeting in which FAWUL was present, but that suggestions put forward by his office were not adhered to.
“We suggested that government should reduce the taxes levied on Firestone in order to maintain the struggling farmers who have served the company for over 20 years, but it was not followed,” Kerkulah said.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of Firestone, Mr. Rufus Karmo, noted that the redundancy action began after several consultations with the workers and FAWUL, adding that the company’s decision is backed by its current challenges.
“The decision is due to the facts that the company is losing daily because we have low production and the market value of rubber has massively dropped,” Karmo said.
He said the layoff is not a witch hunt neither an attempt to deny the workers their jobs, but an effort to save the company from gradual collapse.
“Business is meant for profit, but Firestone is not making any profit now due to the serious global melt down,” Karmo added.
Many of the affected workers were nearing their retirement age, the Daily Observer has learned.
An affected worker said he regretted Firestone’s action, but added that the Liberian government could have found an alternative instead of compelling Firestone to lay off some of its employees.
Concerning benefits, the Daily Observer was told that those who worked for the company for over 10 years are entitled to 24 months salary, US$75 for each of their children, one year’s school fees in lieu off notice, which will accord them future consideration for service at the company should the need arise.
For those who have worked for less than 10 years, each person is entitled to half of their monthly salary, multiplied by their number of years of service.