House Halts Firestone Redundancy

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The management of Firestone, along with the Minister of Justice, Frank Musa Dean, and Labor Minister Moses Kollie had been invited by plenary to make some inputs about the company's planned action.

The Plenary of the House of Representatives has unanimously voted to put a halt to Firestone’s decision to lay off 374 employees including the dismissal of 153 contractors, as well as the demotion (reshuffling) of 26 tappers to slashers (brushers), following the conclusion of its ongoing investigation into the company’s decision.

The Plenary’s decision was based on a motion by Representative Acarous Gray (District #8, Montserrado County), calling on the company to halt its action and any other actions.

Following series of amendments to Gray’s motion, Plenary called on the company to reappear in open session next Tuesday, July 21, with all sub-contractual agreements it has signed with other entities, along with its financial records for the past five years.

The management of Firestone, along with the Minister of Justice, Frank Musa Dean, and Labor Minister Moses Kollie had been invited by plenary to make some inputs about the company’s planned action.

Speaking in session, the General Manager of Firestone, Don Darden, said that the decision of the company was necessary to preserve its operation in Liberia.

Speaking also on the floor, Representative Tibelrosa Tarponweh of Margibi County District #1, who wrote the communication to invite the Firestone management, said the company has failed to live up to its promises. It can be recalled that Representative Tarponweh, who serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Investment and Concession, had earlier called for an intervention into the “worrisome situation.”

Several other lawmakers, including Representatives J. Fonati Koffa, Ellen Attoh, Ben Fofana, Clarence Massaquoi, Edward Karfiah and Ivar Jones, condemned the pronounced actions by the company.

Representative Tarponweh and the Committee, along with the Margibi County Legislative Caucus, had earlier met the company’s top managers last Monday, but it appeared that the parties failed to find a mitigating solution.

The company told the committee that it has contracted private firms to operate some of the estates and, as such, it was not in the position to employ and underwrite all of the estate workers’ benefits such as health and education.

Representative Tarponweh said the company exports all of its rubber products out of Liberia, and the only benefit that the country gets is the employment of its citizens.

House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, in anger, said that Firestone, a 100 years old friend to Liberia, is not reciprocating the goodness the country has done but is instead paying back by “kneeling on Liberia’s neck.”

He said through Liberia, Firestone became the second-largest rubber producing company, with nothing to show for producing in Liberia.

Expressing his irritation, the Speaker said not even a “condom” has been produced in Liberia.

Earlier, authorities of the Ministry of Labour have said it will not provide Firestone Liberia with the guidance it needs to undertake its planned redundancy exercise.

The ministry said its stance against Firestone comes as a result of the company’s failure to tell the ministry whether its proposed workforce cut is the “result of re-organization, transfer, discontinuance or reduction of business.”

According to Labour Minister Moses Y. Kollie, the Ministry took the decision based on the fact that section 13.4 (a) of the Decent Work Act, which states that: “change of business or ownership shall not be averred and shall not directly affect the terms of the condition of employment of workers who continue to be employed in such a business and their contract of employment is deemed of all purposes to have to continue…”

“This Government through the Ministry of Labour wishes to encourage Firestone to defer its intended action as mentioned in its recent communication in order to find an alternative to the termination of employees’ employment. Our people cannot be losing jobs while we already have a huge health crisis, coping with global economic issues. We strongly believe that Firestone as a strong partner to this country will reconsider their decision,” Min. Kollie said.

Author

  • I am a Liberian journalist, born November 7 and hailed from the Southeast and of the kru tribe. I began contributing to the Daily Observer 2008 and was fully employed in 2012. I am the 3rd of eight children and named after my great grandfather. Am happily married with three children (girls). I am a full member of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and also the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) and the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOL). I can be contacted through email: [email protected] or cell number/WhatsApp: (+231) 0886585875 or Facebook.

11 COMMENTS

  1. We welcome this move by the legislature to impress upon Firestone to halt its decision to laid off over 350 of its employees. It is hoped that they can arrive at an acceptable solution.

    I guess the question that I have is this: what happens if Firestone decides to still go ahead and terminate their services? Does the Legislature have the power to stop them from doing so?

    I dont know who has done more disservice to the Liberian people: the government of Liberia or Firestone?

    Peace

  2. Is any foreign conglomerate or corporation forced to remain in a country if its management decides to cut labor force or unconditionally leave out of that country because it is not profiting enough? I am not implying that the legislators’ statements mean that they can coerce Firestone to do what it does not intend to do; however, I have not heard of any such case.

    Speaker Bhofal’s remarks that Firestone has operated in Liberia for a long time now, but does not even produce a condom to show for it, is incredulously incredible because Firestone’s failure to do due diligence to the country is a direct reflection of the quality of decisions that lawmakers of his ilk have been making.
    Can Speaker Bhofal proffer any explanations of projects he has initiated that has created jobs and impacted the lives of Liberians in very substantial ways? What the speaker forgets to understand is that no super-powers or foreign entities will be interested in the welfare of any country more than the welfare of the citizens of their own countries. Liberians still cannot get it, but eventually they will!

    The goal of Firestone in Liberia all along had been profit maximization. It is not a charity. Even some charities do have latent (hidden) goals despite their pronouncement of manifest (known) goals.

    For example: A local, historically Black university (HBU) in America may say to the public it is in existence to produce not-for-profit, quality education to its students; on the other hand, the inquisitive American public is usually aware that though HBUs’ may be a little cheaper relative to Ivy League schools or other parochial institutions, but absolutely there is almost nothing call not-for-profit quality education. So it is with this scenario. Firestone came to Liberia to make money, and not to succor and babysit its extremely venal legislature.

    I do not mean to cast any aspersion on some stalwart lawmakers who are doing everything they can to protect and promote our people’s welfare; nonetheless, the concern of these insidious and predatory ones at this time does not come as a surprise to me because as usual, it is only meant to pacify an anxiety-ridden, voting population. But as soon as they vote them back into their positions, they plunge the country back into business as usual?

    We elected these lawmakers and so what they do affects us and also has a reflection on us. Maybe a psyche conversion on their part will change Liberia’s direction.

    • CERTAINLY,”The goal of Firestone in Liberia all along had been profit maximization, and it is not a charity”; But as any other firm operating within whichever country, AS LONG AS IT (FIRESTONE) STAYS WITHIN THE RULES OF THE GAME!!!!!!! And this is precisely what The Peopleś Speaker was firing on behalf of THE PEOPLE!!!

      Go and ask Shell which attempted similar trick as Firestoneś, but were compelled to change the companyś General Business Principles to include endorsement of the UN Declaration on Human Rights within the legitimate role of business, AND DESIST from declaring employees redundant, in effect terminating the employment of employees because of low production or related ploys for illegitimate maximization of profits.

      Firestone has signed to the UNś Global Compact! Firestone entered into an international agreement with the Republic of Liberia! And when Firestone negligently or fraudulently steps outside the perimeters of “the rules of the game”, they will always be swiftly brought to book by the Liberian Government!

      And that is because the Peopleś Branch of Government (Parliaments and Legislatures) or anyone who has done or has any essential knowledge of the discipline of International Business and Government Relations, is aware that firms or companies randomly declaring employees redundant because of low production have long been a relic or menace of THE PAST!

      And this is precisely what the Honorable Speaker of that august body – Speaker Bhopal Chambers of the Peopleś Branch, was “firing” on behalf of THE PEOPLE!!!

      As for your lackadaisical, or to be blunt, your extremely silly and ignoramus question as: “Is any foreign conglomerate or corporation forced to remain in a country if its management decides to cut labor force or unconditionally leave out of that country because it is not profiting enough?”; that laughably speaks volumes and makes manifest your idiocy and ignorance, when it comes to post-modern international business and government relations!

  3. Correction: Sorry for question mark instead of a period at the end of, “…Business as usual.” (Fifth paragraph)

  4. It is time that Liberians know that Firestone, with its Racist Policy, has abscribed unto itself the status of a “State within a State.” This American company has a history of ordering Liberian governments to do its bidding in its efforts at exploiting our people and country with little or no regards for Liberia’s Sovereignty or National interests. Indeed, like George Floyd, Liberia is crying out to Firestone, “I can’t breathe!!!.”

    We would like to thank our Speaker for speaking out against Firestone’s attempt to strangulate the Liberian economy by laying off over 300 workers with the net effect of causing the destabilization of the Liberian economy. This is unacceptable and the government must quickly come in to curb this insanity on the part of Firestone.

    There is a book which is a “must read” for all Liberians entitled:
    “Two Centuries of US Military Operations In Liberia” by Dr. Niels Hahn

    This book makes startling revelations and goes on to say “that the war in Liberia was not a “civil war” as most commonly described. It was an international war fought primarily on Liberian soil.” It also goes on to describe how the US has removed from power 3 Liberian governments, namely, Tolbert’s, Doe’s and Taylor’s.

    The book also mentions how Firestone has in the past used the government of the United States through its Department of State to pressure Liberia to accept unconditionally its agreements with Firestone. According to the book, ” The Liberian Legislature felt uncomfortable about the Firestone agreements, which they saw as a loss of sovereignty. As the negotiations became increasingly complicated, Firestone wrote to the USDOS(United State Department of State) that the GOL(Government of Liberia) “must accept the agreements without (a) single change if we go into Liberia”(Buell 1947, 31). The USG pressured the GOL to accept Firestone terms for the rubber concession and the loan agreements”(Lowenkopf 1976, 39).

    “The Liberian government was involved in a new border dispute with France and feared that if they refused the Firestone contract, the USG would withdraw its support for Liberia in this dispute”(Buell 1947, 31)

    Please everyone read this book and make your own assessments on Firestone/ Liberia relations over the years how this American Corporation operates in Liberia to our detriment.

    • Don’t get carried away, as this simple solution is only meant to address the July 26 independence day celebration. And perhaps the only company that can help to reduce the tension and economic hardship for the celebration is Firestorm, with its decision to layoff three hundred or more of its employees. Bad timing by the management of Firestone. Perhaps, the management saw an open opportunity to use the independence celebration to get some stimulus package in the form of tax incentives to keep their employees bread and butter on the payroll. Wait until the celebration is over, perhaps the Executive Branch will be the face of the regime left to deal with Firestone and its employees. The House solution is political and temporary. There is no such laws exist to stop a company from making a managerial decision of that kind in the country. If such decisions do not violate the laws and rights of the company’s employees. For now the company is working along side of the House to save it from potential political embarrassment. But it will be left to the Executive Branch and Firestone to work out their differences. Don’t know what Firestone will be asking for and what the Executive will be proposing. Firestone and the Executive have been down this path many many times before. And they both got something out of their discussions. Whether this time around the timing was wrong for Firestone, or Firestone wanted to gain an upper hand by using the independence celebration in the game of economic chess, they got the attention of the regime. That is something has to be done for the company, and the company has something to do for the regime. Here in the US, we all saw almost 2 trillion dollars stimulus package for companies or businesses to keep their employees working. Well, Liberia does not have that kind of money. But from all indications, the regime is willing to work with Firestone to keep some if not all on its payroll.

  5. Firestone “kneeling on Liberia’s neck”, n’importe quoi!
    Is it Firestone that is kneeling on Liberia’s neck or Liberians kneeling on their own necks? Firestone, like any commercial companies, sole goal is the pursuit of profit. In so doing, it minimizes costs and maximizes profits.
    And so, during the occurrence of any force majeure, the normal reflex of a company is to cut down costs to maintain activities.
    For a multinational like Firestone with significant impact on the country’s economy, it is equally incumbent upon the GOL to provide incentives, stimulus plans and mitigating solutions to maintain normal activities and staff wellbeing.

    But our stupid rulership never takes any of those into consideration. How would you contract a loan, pay an international NGO $9 million to assume logistical activities and use $21 million to buy and distribute food on your partisans as if we are at war where people are unable to fend for themselves? This is no-brainer, my people!

    In the great USA and Europe, companies laid off workers. The employment rate in the USA rose to 11%, but due to stimulus packages, the number is dwindling.
    Look CDCians, learn to sometimes spy and copy and stop remaining too dull.
    Are you going to give some money to Firestone to upkeep the staff you don’t want laid off? Or are you going to waive taxes for 2 or 3 years?

    You want Firestone to produce in Liberia, with which human capital? You are graduating students who make a pass in 1/9 subject on WASCE, you are not improving technical education, and not even dreaming about a polytechnic in Liberia and yet you want Firestone to transform some of its natural resources in the country.
    Can’t you read your own labor code that forbids any company from recruiting a percentage of foreign workforce?

    Vote to impose a dictatorial decision in a free market economy!
    But beware, Firestone is an American company, you better think twice before you exhibit your nullity!

  6. Rhyne Brigit

    Your thoughts are provoking Rhyne.

    I guess the lawmakers failed to realize that included among their multiple roles is to design policies to manage the wealth, which the country receives from the sales of its natural resources, to diversify the economy so when our depleting natural resources are finally gone, the country will still be able to generate enough revenues to carry on its national development.

    A leadership is usually poised to provide direction by presenting some alternative courses of actions to change the lives of people in significant ways. After the actions are taken, the people usually look back and say proudly, “Yes, we have arrived here because we have a leadership that was farsighted and driven by its conviction, boldness, and actions.” But if the actions did not fulfill the goals, the people might just lose confidence in the leadership’s ability to lead.

    And so I find it difficult to boast of this leadership because its actions only re-energizes the same old vicious cycle of the slave master. No matter how one views this, the officials did not produce any blueprint for a better way forward. The country is still held in the tight grip of a very powerful oligopoly. Am I saying only the Weah’s government to be blamed? No, because Liberians are quite aware that this has been an existing pathology since the founding of the country. However, from all indications, this administration does not seem to have the political will to change the status quo ante either.

    How painful the reflections are to always see our lawmakers making quasi-concessions with Firestone simply because they fear the adverse reactions of the company’s foreclosure. If our leaders, both past and present, had been proactive over the years in using the country’s revenues by investing them into sustainable industries and diversifying the economy, the citizens would not have been witnessing this shameful theatric today.

    To be real, I did not see anything substantial that these lawmakers gained from the negotiations as bargaining power between Liberia and Firestone had always tilted in favor of Firestone. This is just another temporary showdown on the part of our lawmakers, but in the end, sad to say our lawmakers will capitulate anyhow.

    Marcus Garvey once said, “To change the human body, you must first change the mind.”

  7. All they want to do is criticize, criticize, criticize, when they do not have even the elementary epistemology of international business and government relations!

    There the other one there calling himself lawyer – Arthur Johnson: ranting a groundless claim that “commissioners present positions at the National Elections Commission (NEC) cannot allow them to be re-appointed in the very and same Commission as Co-Chairperson and Chairperson, respectively while serving their seven(7) year tenure”!

    MY GOD! HOW CAN THIS GUY CLAIMING TO BE A JURIST NOT KNOW THAT THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO LIBERIAN LAW, WHETHER STATUTORY, JUDGE.MADE, OR CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, PROHIBITING ANY TENURED COMMISSIONER FROM BEING RE-APPOINTED AND OR CONFIRMED TO ANOTHER TENURED POSITION WITHIN THE COMMISSION OR EVEN ANY OTHER TENURED POSITION!!! NO WE HAVE TO RETURN HOME!!! WHAT!!! A LAWYER???

    The little guy fails to realize that:

    (1)Under the Constitution and laws of Liberia, every appointed, nominated, and or confirmed, official of government WHETHER TENURED OR NON-TENURED official of government has;

    (2) the right and freedom of choice to accept or reject nomination, appointment , and confirmation, or relinquish any position whether tenured or not, just as it is within the rights, pleasure, and powers, of the President under Article 56 etc of the Liberian Constitution to appoint all civilian officials of the Liberian Government! That;

    (3) the fact that an individual has been appointed and confirmed, and is serving as an NEC Commissioner or any other tenured position, DOES NOT EXCLUDE him/her from the enjoyment of this fundamental Constitutional right to serve in another tenured or non-tenured position of government, once he or she has;

    (4) been appointed under Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution, and will not serve synonymously after confirmation!!! For again that;

    (5) there is no law, constitutional or statutory, that prevents any citizen from leaving one tenured position to another tenured position whether within the same agency, commission, etc. or not; nor any constitutional, statutory, customary, or judge–made law preventing the President and the Senate from exercising their constitutional rights and powers within these perimeters!!

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