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.”
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.