Striking Firestone workers have demanded the company increase their hourly wages from US$8.36 to US$12.50 as a precondition to end their ongoing strike action.
The workers’ demand was made in a position statement issued yesterday, August 9, at the Ministry of Labor where they gathered to make known their concerns.
They further accused the management of discrimination in workers’ wage structure. According to the union’s statement, the management promised to restructure its wage structure, but this has not been done, leading to a huge disparity in wage structure.
Reading the statement on behalf of the aggrieved workers, Luogon Guanue Polay stated that Division Superintendents’ wages were increased from $US400 to $US1,100, while tappers at the bottom of the scale were left out, with management insisting there is no money. “We want the $US8.36 to $US12.50 reflected on the payment statement as base pay plus any other earnings,” the statement said.
The aggrieved workers, also want the company to provide first aid training to at least two persons at each divisional office school campuses along with the provision of a first aid kit.
Polay, in the statement, further noted with dismay the discharge of firearms with live ammunition on workers at Division #43, precisely at Wilson check point. He further said the company’s policy that governs workers is said to be hidden from them and said policy is used to dismiss workers arbitrarily, adding that in fact “many of the workers of Firestone continue to be perpetual contractual workers.”
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Musa Dean has assured the workers that no workers will be punished by management for airing their views during the stand-off.
He mandated the Management of the Firestone Plantations Company to provide employees’ handbook to the workers within a reasonable time, noting that doing so will enable the workers understand the do’s and don’ts in their workplaces.
The Justice Minister has also ordered an investigation into a complaint that live ammunition was fired by security forces during the strike action on the plantation.
He informed the workers that the President of the Republic of Liberia, Dr. George M. Weah, is very concerned about the plight of workers of Firestone and promised that the Government of Liberia’s mediation team will take their concerns to him.
He called for the setting up of a tripartite committee of the Firestone management, workers’ representatives and Government to address the workers’ grievances and report by August 24.
During the meeting, a representative of the Firestone management promised to collaborate with the Presidential committee to ensure that the issues raised by the workers are laid to rest in time.
Labor Minister Moses Y. Kollie said he was pleased that workers have agreed to return to work, following the intervention of the Government of Liberia, noting that this is a clear indication that the Weah-led government is concerned about the welfare of workers in the country.
He told the workers that the government is under obligation to listen to their plight and encourage all workers in the country to bring their issues to the Ministry of Labor for amicable resolution, instead of engaging in what he called lawlessness.
Kollie further encouraged the workers of Firestone to respect and listen to them as their leaders in order to allow them solve their issues.
Meanwhile, workers of the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company have named a seven-member committee to represent them on the tripartite committee proposed by the government, to continue with the dialogue in the next two weeks. The proposed dialogue is expected to find solutions to the ongoing situation at the plantation.
Those named to the workers’ committee include Mr. Luogon Polay, Chairman; Abraham Nimene, Co-chair; Raymond C. Yeon, Secretary; Tito B. Tarnah Alice Seh, Abel F. Ngigie and Edwin Fallah, members.