By Alloycious David (Freelance Journalist)
Operations at one of Liberia’s major exporters of rubber, the Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC), have been paralyzed for days, because the workers are on a go slow action demanding permanent employment.
SRC is owned and operated by Switzerland-based Socfin Group, which acquired the corporation in 2007, and shortly thereafter, undertook major investments to optimize the plantation.
But the workers, mainly rubber tappers, have for the past three days reportedly abandoned their work in demand of better wages and permanent employment.
Tappers from the various divisions said they have worked perpetually under appalling conditions and without the requisite wages as contractors, even though they do bulk of the work at the plantation.
Prior to staging the protest on Monday, November 18, 2018, the tappers, some of who have become aggrieved, wrote a series of letters to the management and the Ministry of Labor, seeking negotiations to address their qualms.
In one of the letters, the head of the protesting workers alleged that since about eight months ago, “management has constantly applied 50 percent co-efficient against our tax production. As you are aware, and according to the contract, tappers are to pay for their working implements, including tapping knives, rice, buckets, raincoats.
“Secondly, management has paired two tappers with an assigned task of producing unspecified amount of latex, but the 50 percent applied on our production, and the other deductions have made us not to benefit during salary payment. This situation has discouraged almost all of us,” the aggrieved workers said in the letter to management.
In the letter dated April 27, 2018, the workers pleaded with management to provide two bags of rice to those that are two in a group that have produced more than 50 percent co-efficient than the tonnage rate per month.
Up to press time last night, it was not independently established whether management afforded the tappers audience, but unimpeachable sources hinted that management had long since ignored the tappers’ letter of complaint.
Another letter written to the Ministry of Labor on November 5, 2018, through Anthony Moses, Labor Commissioner assigned in Margibi County, said that management made redundant over 200 tappers in March, 2016.
They claimed that the company refused to pay them their accrued benefits on grounds that they would be re-employed, but elected instead, to hire them as contractors in an attempt to avoid liability.
Jallah Mensah, SRC Administrative and Human Resource Manager, corroborated that the tappers’ action has paralyzed normal operations at the plantation.
Mensah further said that the strike has to a large extent, paralyzed the company’s operations, and that there has not been any activity there since Monday, November 20, 2018, “because the guys who are supposed to be running the activities are currently not working, but rather protesting.”
He however said that SRC does not have any direct connection with those individuals demanding employment, because they have been working as contractors for a long time.
He explained that the protesting workers were hired by a local firm, JB Enterprise, with whom SRC has a contractual agreement to provide labor as may be needed from time to time.
“That is the situation; whatever they are protesting for, we will not know because we have no direct engagement with them,” Mensah told this reporter via mobile phone.
He said that authorities of the Ministry of Labor, and the JB Enterprise are currently negotiating with the aggrieved workers, to resolve the impasse.
Officials in charge of finance at SRC have confided that the company is losing unspecified amount of United States dollars daily, since the protest started on Monday.