Authorities at the Firestone Rubber Company in Firestone recently laid off 76 of its workers due to what it calls losses at its Rubber Wood Factory and admits a plan to shut it down anytime soon.
Recently, Margibi County District #1 Representative Tibelrosa S. Tarponweh visited Division #16 in Firestone on a call from a group of downsized employees at the Rubber Wood Factory. The aggrieved workers complained that their loss of employment has caused hundreds of family members and relatives to go hungry and their children may not continue their education due to their lack of capacity to pay their fees should they leave the dwelling places of the company.
The spokesperson of the redundant workers, Vadimani Kollie, said Firestone has not given them what they deserve even though the company has asked them to stop working. He expressed concern over his children and those of his fellow workers.
In an attempt to seek some help in favor of residents of Gazon Town, Firestone Division #16, Representative Tarponweh said his quest is that the government should buy pieces of Firestone furniture in order to allow the company to make money and keep the workers. “I understand what the company is going through but I am also worried about the aftermath of its (Firestone’s) decision leading to the reduction of manpower,” he said. He added that he has consulted with Margibi Senator Oscar Cooper who also has expressed interest in seeing to it that Firestone reconsiders its decision and call back the workers it has laid off.
He expressed the hope that the government does business with Firestone by buying the different set of furniture produced in order to allow the company to keep residents in the area and others who have migrated there in search of livelihood to remain at work.
Firestone Liberia’s outgoing general manager and chief executive officer, Eduardo Garcia, said business is for profit-making, but when conditions are so unfavorable that challenge a business against its progress and longevity, the wise thing to do is to close the business down.
Treated wood as well as furniture for households, schools and offices, are produced at the Rubber Wood Factory, and sold in the country.
Garcia told the Daily Observer recently that there appears to be no remedy to challenges the business was encountering, even if the government should come in to do business with his company.
“We were in a meeting recently with the Representative of this district where we clearly made our concern known that we cannot continue this business, while there is no profit,” he said.
Mr. Garcia said that the recent laying off of workers at the factory was predicated upon the losses his company continues to experience, which poses a serious challenge in meeting payroll requirements.
He said due to lots of financial constraints, the company is indebted in the sum of over U$200 million.
“People think all is well with Firestone-Liberia, but it is not so. We are seriously challenged with making more money due to low prices of rubber on the world market. We don’t decide the price of rubber but Singapore, and another important thing the public should know is that Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, and Ivory Coast are among other high natural rubber producing countries that have greater advantages than us,” Garcia said.
He added that while Liberians’ desire for Firestone to begin manufacturing of rubber products in the country is good, what they need to know is that the cost of manufacturing of rubber materials in the country is too high.
“While is true that we want more Liberians to work with our company, the conditions on the ground are not favorable for us to venture into manufacturing. We would have to import everything we need for the manufacturing, and getting quality equipment from overseas to Liberia is nothing to joke about,” Garcia said.