For Selling Hevea Wood, Furniture; Growing Coffee, Cocoa
(PICTURES IN CHATROOM)
Firestone Liberia, the oldest and largest rubber plantation company in the country, has been criticized by members of the House of Representatives for being in blatant violations of the 92-year-old Concession Agreement, by selling hevea rubber wood, furniture and growing coffee and cocoa.
The Lawmakers said the venturing of Bridge Firestone Liberia into selling hevea rubber woods and furniture and growing coffee and cocoa does not only make them to be in violation but is undermining Liberians who engage in similar businesses and the Liberianization Policy.
Members of the House of Representatives made the statement yesterday – Thursday, June 28, during the 41st day sitting when the Management of Firestone Liberia appeared to address itself to the observations and findings by the House’s Joint Committee on Agriculture and Labor as well as Lawmakers from Margibi and Montserrado Counties.
The Plenary of the House of Representatives recently endorsed the report submitted by its Joint committee on Agriculture and Labor, recommending that Firestone Liberia be invited to answer to some inquiries as it relates to her operation in the country, of bad labor practice, including underpaying of workers, no overtime for workers and poor living conditions of workers.
The Joint Committee also accused the Management of Firestone of lack of electricity, sanitary latrines and deplorable housing conditions.
In response, the Managing Director of Bridge Firestone, Mr. Edmundo Garcia admitted producing rubber wood and selling furniture, but said they were “trials” to encourage Liberians to engage in rubber wood furniture. He also admitted that the management is involved in growing cocoa and coffee, but was also a trial and part of the amended documents of Firestone which is before the Legislature to engage in crop diversity.
“If the amendment is not passed by the Legislature, we will stop it,” Mr. Garcia said.
He however rejected allegations of bad labor practices and providing poor living conditions to employees of the company.
Garcia described most of the issues raised in the report of the House committee on Agriculture and Labor as inaccurate and a misunderstanding of the facts.
The committee on Agriculture accused the company of bad labor practices, poor living conditions, over-time, lack of safe drinking water and electricity, among others.
Responding to the concerns, Mr. Garcia said the company is paying employees at between US$8.30 and US$12.82 per day, excluding over-time and is providing safe drinking water.
He said the employees, as per the Collective Bargain Agreement, are tapping 548 to 648 trees per day, contrary to the committee report of 750 to 1,000 per day.
On the issue of electricity, the MD of Firestone insisted that the company was providing electricity to the workers but admitted their inability to supply all camps on the plantation as the company generator is producing four megawatts.
He admitted having employees as contractors for periods ranging between one to four years, but has started employing some of them and is working to employ the others.
Following the explanation of the managing director of the Firestone Plantations Company, the plenary voted to present copy of the report to the management for a comprehensive response within two weeks and also mandated the Management of Firestone to improve on issues where they have gone wrong.