President George Manneh Weah and a delegation from the Firestone Natural Rubber Company have agreed to set up a working group that will ensure continued better relationship and review the current concession agreement between the company and Liberian government and Firestone Liberia, a release from the Executive Mansion has said.
“Firestone has been our valued partner for so long,” President Weah told the high-powered delegation when he met with them on Tuesday, May 21. “That’s since 1926. Our focus now is to sustain a favorable business climate and create modalities whereby Firestone and other businesses remain safe and productive to operate in the best interest of our people and nation.”
Although it is not clear what direction the concession agreement review will take, Firestone Liberia, the largest single private employer in the country, began scaling down its workforce since April 2019, citing “unsustainable losses resulting from high overhead costs associated with the company’s Concession Agreement with the Government of Liberia,” among other in-country and external shocks.
Firestone-Liberia’s initial redundancy exercise affected 800 employees, amounting to 13% of its entire workforce. However, the company was quick to clarify that the layoffs were not enough to restore the profitability.
“Unfortunately, these measures alone will not be enough to restore Firestone-Liberia to profitability. As a result, the company will continue to evaluate all aspects of its business to ensure long-term competitiveness and determine the best allocation of company resources to optimize our portfolio, processes and culture,” the company said in a statement in March 2019.
At Tuesday’s meeting, President Weah assured the Firestone delegation of his Government’s fruitful partnership and full readiness to provide every support necessary for the smooth operations of the company in Liberia.
He praised the company for its invaluable contribution towards Liberia’s growth and development over the years.
“My government is flexible to work with Firestone, and will continue to do so towards harnessing a win-win relationship in which the common interest of our people and the smooth operation of the company is assured and protected,” the Liberian Leader said further.
Firestone Natural Rubber Company’s General Manager, Don Danden, who spoke during the meeting with President Weah, said the company would continue its partnership with Government in an open manner.
The Company’s delegation included its Executive Vice President and Senior Officer of Bridgestone Corporation, Christine Karbowiak, Senior Vice President for Corporate Procurement, Rebecca Vest and General Manager of Firestone Liberia Inc., Don Darden.
Meanwhile, President Weah, has assured Firestone Liberia and the Liberian business community of his government’s protection and a healthy partnership amid concerns about the planned “peaceful protest” slated for June 7.
President Weah said his administration is under obligation to protect the business community and create the enabling environment for people and organizations within the borders of Liberia to be safe and productive.