House summons management, chief of security on issues why they cannot be held in contempt
The Management of Farmington Hotel, in Lower Margibi County, is undergoing a major investigation about unfair labor practices allegedly against Liberian casual workers, as well as the huge gap in payment between the local and foreign employees.
The Management has also been accused of using invectives (abuse) and intimidation, while assaulting vulnerable employees.
As a result of those serious allegations, the Management of the Farmington Hotel and its Chief of Security have been summoned to appear before the Plenary of the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 8, at 10:00 a.m. They are to explain why they (Farmington Hotel) cannot be held in contempt after they reportedly prevented one of the members from carrying out an investigation on the basis of complaints raised by Liberian casual workers employed by the hotel.
The Lawmakers’ decision to invite the Management was announced on Tuesday, March 6 in its 15th Day Sitting.
The investigation of the hotel was prompted by a communication from Margibi County District #2 Representative, Ivar K. Jones, who requested the House to exercise its oversight by inviting the management of Farmington Hotel to answer to complaints of alleged bad labor practices against its workers, specifically the Liberian employees.
Rep. Jones said during a three-day retreat at the hotel that the Liberian casual workers reported to him and other lawmakers of being seriously intimidated and assaulted by foreign managerial staff.
“Insults and assaulting of local staff, intimidation of staff, and poorly prepared meals for local staff and denial of the right of workers to unionize are some of the claims the aggrieved employees have brought to my attention,” Rep. Jones said.
He added: “Honorable Speaker, fellow colleagues, in an impromptu meeting held in the cafeteria of the hotel on February 23, with over 50 local employees, they spoke of lots of bad labor practices by the Farmington Hotel Management. One of the workers who spoke specifically about the General Manager, Richard Robaix, has filed a letter of resignation because of the inhumane treatment against some of the workers.”
Though Mr. Robaix is yet to respond to a phone call this paper placed to him, another employee has complained of one Romeo Al Haja’s aggressive behavior against the employees.
“Honorable Speaker, distinguished colleagues, there are lots of alleged profanities being used on the workers which l cannot quote directly in my communication before this august body, because while each of the aggrieved workers were explaining their grievances, the Chief of Security, Alvin Tarpeh, disrupted the discussion by asking me out of the hotel. Also, the Human Resource Manager, Daniel Cephus, intimidated the employees by video-taping them, which shows gross disrespect to my Honorable Office,” Rep. Jones reported.
Following the meeting, Jones said that there have been a wave of threats against the employees. “As we speak, a memo has been placed on the bulletin, threatening them with dismissal,” he said.
According to an employee, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the meeting Rep. Jones held with the employees, the Farmington Hotel Management is threatening to dismiss some of the employees referencing the ‘Contract of Employment’ between the former General Manager, Ronald Stillting, and themselves.
The ‘Contract of Employment’ says either party can terminate the Employment Agreement by giving the notice required by the labor law. In cases of gross misconducts, Farmington said it reserves the right to dismiss an employee without further notice or payment.
Some of the reasons for termination include unauthorized disclosures of information to third parties by employees, internal documents or data concerning the employer’s affairs and general breach of confidentiality, as well as the use of employer’s property for personal benefit.
However, it has been gathered that some Representatives are pushing for the review of the extensive 20-year Tax Break Farmington Hotel enjoys. This means that for the next 20 years or more, the foreign-owned Farmington Hotel, unlike Liberian-owned hotels which do not benefit from tax breaks, will not pay anything into Government revenue.
Similarly too are a number of mining companies in Liberia that enjoy extended tax breaks of several years’ duration.
Our reporter contacted Richard Robiax through phone calls and text messages about complaints on alleged bad labor practices by Farmington Hotel. But Mr. Robiax has failed to respond up to press time last night, nor did he reply to text messages.
Farmington Hotel is situated on the west bank of the Farmington River and across the street from the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Unification Town, Margibi County. It has 164 rooms, include three presidential suites.