Firestone Condemns Workers’ Strike Action as “Misconduct”

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Firestone: “We respect our workers’ right to voice their opinion, but an illegal walkout, personal misconduct, and destruction of company’s property is the wrong approach, dangerous and threatens the viability of our almost century-long relationship with Liberia.

The management of Firestone-Liberia Incorporated has condemned recent strike actions by aggrieved workers following the company’s failure to increase their monthly take-home pay.

According to a press release issued on August 11, the Firestone Management described the workers’ action as  “misconduct of employees.”

According to the release, the management of Firestone Liberia, Incorporated condemned recent work stoppages, and “unlawful conduct,” including the destruction of rubber trees by a number of workers at its concession.

On August 9, the day of the workers’ protest, the Firestone management, representatives of the aggrieved workers, as well as representatives of the Ministries of Labor and Justice held a brief meeting at the Labor Ministry, where a Firestone representative promised to work with the committee set up to probe the workers’ complaints.

In its August 11 statement, the Firestone management said it is also seeking more deliberate support from the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL), as well as ministries and departments of the Government of Liberia (GoL) to quickly and peacefully resolve the recent misunderstandings that resulted in unrest, and physical damage to its operation.

“At Firestone, the safety and well-being of our employees is a top priority. We condemn acts and threats of violence, intimidation and disruptive conduct on company premises,” the release quotes Ed Garcia, president and managing director of Firestone Liberia.

“For more than 90 years, Firestone has been a vital part of Liberia, and we stand committed and willing to engage in an open and productive dialogue to listen to our workers, but always within the framework of our collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and in keeping with all applicable laws of Liberia. Nothing has come to our attention that indicates we are in violation of the CBA; if there is any concern, employees should follow the established and agreed upon grievance process,” the release said.

According to the release, all work performed by Firestone Liberia tappers is done through an agreement with the leadership of FAWUL, the freely elected union representatives of Firestone workers. Firestone Liberia says it has provided extensive clarification regarding worker pay to company employees, FAWUL representatives and the GoL, including the Ministry of Labor and members of the House of Representatives.

FAWUL, however has yet to make a public statement on the matter.

Firestone, along with government officials and officers of the Liberian National Police (LNP), is, therefore, encouraging all employees to immediately resume normal operations to prevent long-term implications for the Firestone Liberia operation, other local businesses and Liberia’s continued economic recovery.

Wages at Firestone Liberia are negotiated directly with the FAWUL, and in alignment with the Decent Work Act and all applicable laws of Liberia, Firestone maintains.

In addition to the work stoppage by rubber tappers, strikers blocked public roads that run through the Firestone concession area cutting off vital transport routes for the country, including critical medical and emergency services aid.

Strikers also destroyed company property, including structures and rubber trees, the company said in its statement, adding that the disruptive actions of certain workers appear to stem from a misunderstanding about the daily average wages of tappers at Firestone Liberia.

The correct minimum base wage of a tapper at Firestone Liberia is US$5.50 cents per day. This is only the base wage and does not include additional financial incentive opportunities as part of their job and in keeping with the CBA with FAWUL.

However, the aggrieved workers in their position statement demand that “US$8.36 to US$12.50 reflect on [their] pay statement as base pay plus any other earnings.”

Firestone maintains: “We respect our workers’ right to voice their opinion, but an illegal walkout, personal misconduct, and destruction of company’s property is the wrong approach, dangerous and threatens the viability of our almost century-long relationship with Liberia. Walkouts have consequences and do nothing, but hurt workers, their families, and the Liberian economy, and cause long-term damage to relationships between industry and workers’ groups,” Garcia said in the release.

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the aggrieved workers Luogon G. Polay in a telephone conversation told the Daily Observer that at no time the group carry out any form of misconduct as claimed by the Firestone management in its release. “We are resolved and will not be moved by the release issued. Our position is very clear: our plight must be addressed. We look forward to the outcome of the 7-man committee set up to resolve the impasse,” he stated.

Polay said the aggrieved workers will meet today, August 13, to discuss and deliberate on the statement issued by Firestone management.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This is completely sad. Who lives on just $5.50 a day especially when you have a family to look after. I used to tap rubber myself and I know the harshness of the labor. Now the operation in Firestone may be more burdensome compared to the time I used to tap. We tapped the rubber, cooked the latex in the cup, and drop it at the foot of the rubber tree every morning. It was done so until at the end of the month, we would gather the cup lumps, bag them, and haul them to the weighing center – stuff like that. But our agreement was completely different. Then, based on how many pound of rubber you can produce a month, the company owner would only take certain percentage. So it was, the more rubber you tap, at the end of the month the more money you take home. But what’s going on Firestone is what I would call “normal time tapping” where you get paid monthly salary.
    Now, few things to consider:
    – Liberia is being overrun by the United States dollars
    – Goods and services in the country are being transacted at the US dollars exchange rate
    – USA has major influence on every decision the GoL (Government of Liberia) makes (facts: do your research)
    – There’s high demand for rubber in America especially in the car manufacturing industry

    With that being said, I think it’s fair for the workers to ask for pay increase or else they might as well just work for free because at the end of the day we know damn well in Liberia today you can not feed a family of four (hypothetically) with $5.50 a day. Now, on the other hand, I’m not sure what deal Firestone may have struck with the GoL to get them to pay workers the rate they are currently receiving. But whatever the case, Firestone can do better with the pay rate. However, I can tell you for a fact that based on Firestone’s response, they don’t care about the cries of those workers, they don’t want to understand the suffering of those workers, and the harsh economic condition of the land, and they simply do not give a damn. You can hear it clearly in the tonality of the statement, “nigger, you better get your ass back to work”. Sorry but its the truth, its just because time has changed a bit but they would went after those workers with taskforce and get them back to work.

    On a separate note: Have you wonder why Africa remain impoverished. Well, that’s why. We supply the world with all the minerals. Yes all the minerals that the western world are building their riches on but look at how we get paid. And you are not even supposed to request for a pay raise, you get threaten of consequences for walkout? Can you afford a rubber shoe/slipper for $5.50, can you afford a tire for $5.50…the government officials are puppets working for their pockets. Watch your own people get mistreated in front you and no body can stand up and say enough is enough.

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