Salala Rubber Corporation Tries to Keep the Economy Wheel Turning

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Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) is one of many multi-national companies contributing to Liberia’s economy and its sustainable development agenda for transformation. SRC covers a surface of 8,000 hectares. The concession situated in the
Da-Ta Clan and Gibi District in Margibi County, several kilometers away from Monrovia. It has 2,084 hectares as mature areas, plus 2,721 in the immature areas.

For over five decades, SRC has been contributing to the economic viability of Liberia. The company entered into a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia on August 1, 1959. Since then the company has been working full-scale, even in the midst of the Ebola
Virus outbreak. Only its school system’s teachers were temporarily redundant because of the outbreak.

It is currently paying teachers in their school system 50% of their salaries while staying at home in keeping with the Labor Laws of Liberia. The company feels this is a way of sustaining its workforce in the midst of the Ebola virus epidemic.
SRC management’s immediate focus at the moment is to develop and rejuvenate the plantation. Its workers union has passionately spoken of a very cordial relationship that exists amongst the entire workforce, including senior level management.

On challenges being faced, there have been numerous claims from local residents of encroachment on their private land, non- payment for crops said to have been damaged during the plantation extension process, desecration of traditional and burial sites, pollution of water sources among
others. All of these are not unique to SRC alone. They are some of the same claims that are being raised by residents against other companies working in the agriculture sector across Liberia.

The SRC continues to maintain that those claims from the locals are untrue, and that it has paid for damaged crops, respected sacred sites, and has always operated within the confines of its August 1, 1959 concession agreement with the Government of Liberia.

However, every attempt by the company to access the undeveloped parts of its concession is viewed by local residents as encroachment, which is the main obstacle to the full development of the 8,000 hectares of land granted in Margibi County, under the August 1, 1959 concession agreement with the Government of Liberia.

In addressing their claims, SRC has always dialogue with them, with the involvement of the Margibi County Administration, and sometimes the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the situation may dictate.

On the way forward, the corporation is committed to the promotion of economic empowerment, and social development in its concession area, and also committed to fully develop lands within its concession agreement, and to build a disciplined,
highly motivated work force.

It is therefore necessary to emphasize that it is in the collective interest of the company and residents in the surrounding communities to peacefully coexist, since the plantation operation is for the long term, and it will definitely yield economic and other benefits to those communities.

The workers union in a recent radio talk show, praised the SRC management for the leverage granted them as well as regularizing their benefits.
For over 50 years, SRC has remained a major employer complimenting the Government of Liberia’s efforts in balancing the labor sector. Many extended families in Liberia and elsewhere depend on employment opportunities offered by the company. Salala Rubber Corporation maintains an enviable record of being the only agriculture concession company paying higher wages to its workers. From 3.06 per hour of labor in August 2007, SRC now boasts of 5.30 as minimum daily wage in just a three-year period. This increment especially in the wages of
its unionized workforce signifies SRC’s commitment to prioritizing the welfare of its entire workforce.
The plantation manager at SRC is Mr. Aluppy Shanid, an expatriate with very good interpersonal skills. His human relations resonates his position as plantation manager. He has to deal with large number of workers. SRC has given four hectares of farmland to communities and villages. This gesture will enhance the livelihood of everyone living in SRC concession areas. The company has a strategy of working around the 30-year productivity period of tree planting.
Concessions throughout history will have to tackle the issue of environmental concerns. For William Quaye, the International Safety Organization’s (ISO) Health Environment and Safety (HSE) officer, SRC is ISO complaint and that it protects/preserves biodiversity, including wetlands within its concession areas.
SRC has over the years adhered to EPA regulations and that Environment Assessment Plans/ Environmental Impact Assessment (EAI) are given high priority by the company.
Throughout the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, SRC has never closed its health facilities. The company has provided healthcare services to communities and villages within its plantations. Safety measures within its many workshops are strictly observed with social security benefits and measures properly in place.

SRC also has it’s constraints in the midst of a global economic meltdown. Prices of rubber on the international scene and theft of latex have for some time posed some problems for the company. But the company has found a way to deter theft and other unwholesome activities against company policies. Latex is now processed in company premises. Such was formerly done in the plantations. This method has seemingly worked and has saved the company the problem of latex theft. The fluctuation of global rubber prices has also helped to reduce latex theft. SRC contracts private security firms to help in plantation protection. The hardworking Liberian management team at SRC is quietly achieving the much needed results for progress and maximum productivity.

The company is to shortly renew its concession agreement with the Government of Liberia (GOL) in a couple of months. The positives in favor of SRC are enormous. Indeed SRC is a true partner in progress. With all of this tremendous progress being made by the company which brought claim and stability to that part of the country, we strongly feel it is now time government adopts the SRC model as a means of bringing vibrancy to the rubber sector in the country which was highly hit as the result of the civil war.

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