Firestone Rejects Claims of “Bad Labor Practice”

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Firestone Liberia Managing Director, Edmundo L. Garcia, presenting Response to Sergeant-at-arms, Martin Johnson

Presents Formal Response to House Plenary

Bridge-Firestone Liberia has rejected claims of “Bad Treatment of Workers” allegedly meted on over 6,000 employees in response to the depraved allegation of the House’s Standing Committee on Agriculture about the alleged treatment of workers on the Plantation, but  disclosed that tappers (workers) are doing their jobs in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The report by the Committee on Agriculture had earlier accused the company of bad labor practices, poor living conditions, over-time, lack of safe drinking water and electricity, among others.

In an earlier appearance before the House Plenary on Thursday, June 29, the President and Managing Director of Firestone Liberia, Mr. Edmundo Garcia, said the company is paying its employees between US$8.30 and US$12.82 per day, excluding over-time and is providing safe drinking water. He also said the employees, as per the Collective Bargain Agreement, are tapping 548 to 648 trees per day, contrary to the Committee’s report of 750 to 1,000 trees per day.

Firestone remained consistent in its official response to the full Plenary of the House of Representatives, which was presented on Thursday, July 12, during the House’s 45th day sitting. The company smugly defended its position and said the workload of the workers is in accordance to the CBA signed between Firestone Liberia and the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union (FAWUL).

The management stated that tappers are to work (tap) between 594 to 648 [of classes 1 & 2] trees per day;  or work (tap) between 432 to 486 [of class 3] trees per day. Also, for class 4 trees, tappers are to work on at least 400 trees per day or 150 trees of class 5 (very old trees) per day.

“Occasionally, make-up or recover tapping is done to make up for days lost to rain or other unexpected events,” Firestone noted in its response. “In make-up tapping, tappers tap half a task in addition to their regular task per day. This additional work adds about two hours to their regular task. For make-up tapping tappers are paid a half day’s pay (equivalent to four hours), in addition to their regular base pay for the day.”

Sergeant-at-arms Martin Johnson presents Firestone’s response to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers

However, in response to the workers of Firestone working seven days in a week on the plantation, Firestone said productions run seven days a week, though all workers are entitled to one day rest of each day. Yet, the statement said, workers may choose to work on their rest day and, if they so choose, they receive Rest Day Pay.

Firestone management indicated that, as outlined in the CBA, employees are paid at the rate of double-time for work performed on his or her regularly assigned day of rest, and paid triple-time, if the rest day fell on a holiday.

Further, in a formal response to workers beginning work from 5:30am to 7:00pm, the management did not deny but said the assertion that workers work from 5:30am to 7:00pm is inconsistent and Firestone pays overtime to workers who worked more than 48 hours per week. The report did not say which mechanism Firestone used to determine which workers worked more than 48 hours per week.

However, the company noted, Firestone Liberia is committed to education and workers’ housing and facilities and healthcare.

Meanwhile, the 10-page response to the observations of the House’s Agriculture Committee, including overtime, living conditions of workers and the Hevea wood factory operations have been presented to Speaker Chambers and will subsequently and will further be distributed to the remaining 72 Representatives to review and scrutinize and discuss in Plenary in the presence of Firestone management.

The Firestone’s response was signed and presented by Mr. Edmundo L. Garcia, President and Managing Director.

18 COMMENTS

  1. It is very counterintuitive for these dense and self-centered so-called representatives to be harassing and lambasting Firestone, a model company in the life of Liberia, compared to what even the darn government couldn’t do for its own citizens! Firestone, for example, provides free healthcare for its workers; free education for dependents of those workers; an educational system which has proven to be superior and in a class of its own; Firestone provides a minimum wage to its workers incomparable to any other in the country, and as I said, even including the government of Liberia. And everyday these bribe-seeking so-called legislators continue to heckle and torment this company with all sorts of reckless accusation or the other? One wonders how much could any of these legislators be paying any employee on their farms, or working in their personal homes, compared to what Firestone is offering its employees? Also Firestone has one of the best organized and vibrant labor unions in the country. So if any of these inhumane conditions were the case on that plantation, wouldn’t that union be up in arms crying foul! Or abuse? I was born and grew up in Firestone, so I just happen to know that historically, yes, Firestone could do more or better in many areas of the livelihood or welfare of its workers, but at the same time, it is reassuring to note that the company has improved and continues to improve in those areas, especially in recent years. So give Firestone a break!

    • Mr. Snyder I am not sure I should be asking this ,but is this an ironic satire ? You must be a shareholder in Firestone to be writing this, most especially for a person with a firsthand knowledge (you claim you are born and raised in Firestone) of how Firestone operates. Let’s analyze what you said in bits and pieces:

      “Firestone, for example, provides free healthcare for its workers; free education for dependents of those workers; an educational system which has proven to be superior and in a class of its own; Firestone provides a minimum wage to its workers incomparable to any other in the country, and as I said, even including the government of Liberia.”

      What is the quality of healthcare provided by Firestone for it’s workers given it’s standing internationally?
      Now I know it is not Firestone’s responsibility to provide healthcare for Liberian citizens (those working for Firestone) but I would expect Firestone to have a modern hospital if they are to boast of providing such.

      Superior class education? If you don’t mind could you explain what you are calling a superior class education ?

      “Also Firestone has one of the best organized and vibrant labor unions in the country. So if any of these inhumane conditions were the case on that plantation, wouldn’t that union be up in arms crying foul! Or abuse?”
      Let me tell you what I think, it is inhumane for a global company like Firestone to pay an employee $12 a day. No matter where on earth, that is called exploitation and exploitation is an inhumane condition! Apparently the “labor union in whom you trust” is not doing it’s job!

      • Let him try working there as a tapper. Maybe his parents were senior staff members living in bungalows. My late Mom, E45-412 (her batch number), worked in Firestone for years. I visited her and saw what life was like there. While in college, I once took a vacation job there working for $2.07 per day – I mean for 8 hours.

        The only difference was, I worked as a mapper, counting rubber trees on paper and answering radio calls. My functions were not as labor intensive as my Mom’s. We live in shacks – no privacy. We used outside toilets and fetched water from the creek.

        But boy, those people work hard!! They headmen and overseers wake them up early at about 5:30 am asking if they are reporting to work. The headman would say ” E45-412, yah lee?” And my Mom would answer “Yes.” – a formal roll call. They always woke me up. No typical American will work under such conditions, not even an inmate.

        Yes, Firestone employs our people but we are talking about an American company, man. Americans have tough labor standards. Why couldn’t they apply the same standards in Firestone? Our leaders are responsible for that. Things seem to be changing though because our post-war leaders are at least speaking out. It is not against the law anywhere in the world to speak out against bad labor practices.

        • You used a whole bunch of vocabulary (headmen,overseers, cited the batch number that is consistent with the alphanumeric batch # system Firestone used–> I saw one of those batches before ). I hear a lot of similar accounts from old folks who worked for the “Burning Stone” (Firestone) .

          You are protected to say Mr. Synder’s folks were senior staff member living at the Bungalows, due to his perception of working environment/conditions at Firestone. Giving Firestone’s Brandname and it’s position in the tyre market globally. Remember that Liberia ranked as the second (second to Malaysia if my memory serves me right) in the world for many years (am not sure if this is still the case) as a supplier or rubber (rubber plantation). Proportionally speaking,what has Firestone given back to Liberia (I know they pay taxes and create “jobs” and all that —> but for Heavens sakes , what kind of jobs are we talking about —> where you earn $12 USD a day ) ?

          Try talking to current and old folks who worked there , you’ll get the real story!

          • CORRECTION!!
            You used a whole bunch of vocabulary (headmen,overseers, cited the batch number that is consistent with the alphanumeric badge # system Firestone used–> I saw one of those badges before ). I hear a lot of similar accounts from old folks who work(ed) for the “Burning Stone” (Firestone) .

            You are protected to say Mr. Synder’s folks were senior staff member living at the Bungalows, due to his perception of the working environment/conditions at Firestone, given Firestone’s brand name and it’s position in the tyre market globally. Remember that Liberia ranked as the second (second to Malaysia if my memory serves me right) in the world for many years (am not sure if this is still the case) as a supplier of rubber (rubber plantation). Proportionally speaking,what has Firestone given back to Liberia (I know they pay taxes and create “jobs” and all that —> but for Heavens sakes , what kind of jobs are we talking about —> where you earn $12 USD a day ) ?

            Try talking to current and old folks who worked there , you’ll get the real story!

  2. As long as Firestone continues to operate in Liberia it is their social-corperate responsibility to seek the welfare of its employees; improve their livelihood at all times.This is enshrined in the concession document signed between the government of Liberia and Bridge-Firestone.
    I prey the indulgence of the Lawmakers to responsibly treat the alarming rate of bad labor practices at Firestone with acceptable sensitivity, where all parties will be accorded due diligence. Management of Firestone must come to term that the world is evolving with technology being the driving force, therefore time yesterday can no longer be time today. Human dignity should be regarded as a core value in all human friendly environment.
    Our policy makers should never give-up on the engagement dialogue between they and Firestone until a reasonable solution can be derived; I hope Firestone will consider improvement in the livelihood and welfare of its workers.

    • “As long as Firestone continues to operate in Liberia it is their social-corperate responsibility to seek the welfare of its employees; improve their livelihood at all times.This is enshrined in the concession document signed between the government of Liberia and Bridge-Firestone.”

      I agree to some extent ( as you have stated that it is part of the concession agreement for Firestone to provide healthcare for it’s employees), but the state is primarily responsible for the healthcare of it’s citizens and in some cases (for example socialist democratic states and others) those within it’s territorial limits, given they are members of the national health insurance scheme. In many cases (emergency or acute medical situations for example) non members of the scheme benefit.

      From my point of view , it due to the inability of the state to provide health care that it usually includes such clauses as elements of a concession agreement. It is unthinkable for a fully functional state to enter into such agreement. My honest point of view.

  3. What if our government expels Firestone and nationalizes the plantation, following the Mugabe-styled nationalization of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe?

    • Wouldn’t that be an extreme measure and ultimately racist? First we need a detailed working environment act which among others elaborates on safety, welfare, with reasonable minimum wage criteria for employees. Secondly I think we need an independent agency to monitor and enforce the act, fining any employer found to be in breach of the act.

    • Liberians can’t even maintain the toilets at the capitol building much less running a rubber plantation. You must be smoking something.

  4. Firestone cannot bribe because it is against US Federal laws to do so, therefore these corrupt, greedy Representatives will keep harassing the company. However, I hope the company makes good on its contractual obligations. My only gripe with Firestone is with their checkpoints. They should not be allowed to search vehicles passing though without probable cause, or a search warrant. How could we allow a company to treat our citizens with such indignity? The government and Firestone need to have a talk about this issue.

  5. it is said that ‘ wise is the man who knows enough to keep his mouth shut’ Firestone is the best place to live in Liberia at this time Running water yes, 24 hours electricity yes, paved streets yes, medical service yes, educational service yes( students from firestone have been the top for the past couple of years in Liberia), supermarket with health-save food at reasonable prices yes .Employees paid on time yes. radio station yes, playground for children yes, improve houses for employees yes. please compare that to any other city in Liberia.

  6. How does Firestone compare to the rest of Liberia’s Rubber Industry? Just wondering… Let’s look at Liberia’s entire “Rubber Industry”; not just Firestone. Many of Liberia’s Elites owe their fortunes to Firestone, Liberia. Firestone provided the technical as well as the financial assistance to Liberia’s Rubber Barons. Firestone provided education for many “Unfortunate Liberians”; who went on to become professionals. Firestone’s Division10 Hospital have always provided quality “Health Care” to all Liberians; not just Firestone’s employees. Yes! Indeed, there’re always downsides. However where due, let’s give credit. Be careful, how you treat Firestone, Liberia. You may very well be playing with “A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD”. Perhaps, I should take you back, to the root-cause of Liberia today’s economic problems. It started when our “LIBERIAN LEADERSHIP” started going after established U.S’ businesses in Liberia; putting them out of BUSINESS. That was a terrible mistake. As a result today, the once STRIVING “Liberian Economy” is in total ruin. We are still trying to figure out, how to bring-back the good old days. It’s not as easy as some/we may think. Once upon a time, we had such U.S’ business establishments as United States Trading Company(USTC), Liberia Trading Co.(LTC), Liberia Tractor Co(LIBTRACO)… You bet! Those were some of the best places to work in Liberia; those days. Ironically, those who stood-up to the U.S, were the very people who owe their being in Liberia, to The United States Of America. It’s called, “Biting The Hand That Feeds You”. Let’s work on an improved/better relationship with “The U.S.A”. It’s to Liberia’s best INTERESTS.

    • Are you implying the government should not question/call to task a US business even if there is apparent mal practice just because it is a US business? This has nothing to do with the relationship between the US and Liberia. The are United States rules of business conduct and ethical considerations that US companies should adhere to even when operating internationally. These rules are designed by the US.

      Do you remember the Foxconn -Apple case in China (now am not likining this to Firestone–> just stating that US companies are obliged to comply with US laws even when operating abroad)?
      Around 17 of Foxconn employees are said to have committed suicide due to work conditions. Foxconn wasn’t even an Apple company, it was just a supplier (manufacturing partner), but Apple got dragged in.It’s not good for a business when you’re accused of underpayment , neglecting social responsibility etc. It kills the Brand name.

      So , blackmail of potential hardship for GoL should not be a deterrent to call a foreign company to task (be it Firestone or any other).

      • CORRECTION!
        Are you implying the government should not question/call to task a US business even if there is apparent malpractice just because it is a US business? This has nothing to do with the relationship between the US and Liberia. There are United States rules of business conduct and ethical considerations that US companies should adhere to even when operating internationally/abroad. These rules are designed by the US (US Government).

        Do you remember the Foxconn -Apple case in China (now am not likening this to Firestone–> just stating that US companies are obliged to comply with US laws even when operating abroad)?
        Around 17 of Foxconn employees are said to have committed suicide due to work conditions. Foxconn wasn’t even an Apple company, it was just a supplier (manufacturing partner), but Apple got dragged in.It’s not good for a business when you’re accused of underpayment , neglecting social responsibility etc. It kills the brand name.

        So , blackmail of potential hardship for GoL should not be a deterrent to call a foreign company to task (be it Firestone or any other).

  7. I am a latecomer to this game. But I will throw a few pennies of mind in the basket.

    Firestone has improved its services in recent years. For the unskilled and semiskilled, Firestone has put in place a minimum wage pay for its employees. Furthermore, for the least of its employees, medical expenses are handled by the company. It’s all good.

    At this point, the question that must be asked is this: Does the government of Liberia have a hospitalization plan for school teachers? Nurses? Custodians?
    The very people (the lawmakers makers) who are questioning Firestone, seem to possess what we call “elmer gantry”. In other words, some lawmakers say that they stand for this, but they’re found doing something else. For example, the lawmakers have a good retirement package. But, guess what….school teachers, nurses and janitors do not have any of the benefits that the lawmakers have.
    Also, what’s about the concept of a minimum wage, an issue I have commented on for a long time. Firestone pays $5.20 a day for the least amongst its employees. When the work day which consists of 8 hours is factored in the daily total of $5.20, it turns out to be $0.65 per hour.

    Again one must as the lawmakers….what’s the minimum wage for nurses, janitors, store clerks, etc in the country?

    Lawmakers: Please don’t make life difficult for Firestone.

    Lawmakers: Please lead by example.

    Lawmakers: Liberian schools are in disarray. What could be done by you in order to improve our public schools?

    Lawmakers: Liberia has had no coins for over 15 years. Could you please do something about that?

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