A weeklong go –slow action staged by the workers of the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (RIC), formerly Cocopa, has ended with workers asked to return to work while their demands are being looked into.
The workers right after the New Year celebration staged a go – slow, demanding better salaries, health care benefits and the timely distribution of their rice rations and salaries.
According to the workers’ spokesperson, Sakpah Mahn, the workers no longer receive their salaries and rice rations on time as it used to be and their health benefits have been blocked at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital due to the management’s failure to settle arrears with the hospital.
“We now pay our own hospital bills and our salaries as well as our food supplies are no longer coming on time,” said Sakpah Mahn, the Labor Union head.
Cocopa is one of the concessions in Nimba where there is always management – employee crisis in postwar Liberia.
In September 2013, the Government of Liberia took ownership of the Cocopa Rubber Plantation for what was considered as “bad labor practices” by the American owned “The Liberia Company/Libco.
The decision to take ownership of Nimba’s largest rubber plantation was reached on the 19th of September 2013 at the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie based on the lawsuit against the management for not doing enough for the workers and the restoration of the company since the war.
The case against Cocopa came after the new concession agreement was canceled owing to the expiration of the first concession agreement in March 2013.
The House Committee on Agriculture paid several visits to the concession area to inspect the living conditions of the workers and assesses the housing, education, medical, water and sanitation as well as other facilities, but nearly all of those facilities were said to be in a deplorable state.
During the visit, the Head of the Committee, Montserrado County Representative Josephine George Francis, classified the Liberia Company/Cocopa as one of the companies in Liberia with poor labor conditions as well as poor human and infrastructural development.
Upon the court verdict in Sanniquellie, which is believed to have been challenged by LIBCO at the Supreme Court of Liberia, an interim management team under Nimba Rubber Inc., headed by Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Boss Mr. Harrison Karnwea, has since been managing the farm up to present.
However, the management of NRI has blamed salary and ration delays as well as the absence of other benefits to the low price of rubber on the world market.