Farmington Hotel General Manager Resigns

Ronald Stilting (right) served as the first general manager of the Farmington Hotel. Ahead of the Ecowas Summit earlier this year, Stilting led President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on a guided tour of the Hotel.

Following reports of bad labor practices that resulted in the retrenchment of over 40 employees at Farmington Hotel, the general manager will quit his post today.

In his letter of resignation dated July 5, with copies addressed to all the employees, Roland Stilting said, “I have decided to leave the Farmington Hotel as general manager as of July 7, and move on to a new challenge after some vacation with my family.”

Ronald Stilting

“You cannot imagine how hard this decision was for me after having built the Farmington and its great team,” Stilting’s letter stated.

It can be recalled that the recent euphoria that greeted about 180 new employees of the Farmington Hotel near Robertsfield, Lower Margibi County, was short-lived when the management announced the termination of 40 of them.

The affected employees, who now appeal for government’s intervention, said they were laid off two weeks to the end of their respective probation period.

The downsizing reportedly took place on June 22, two months and three weeks after the hotel hired and gave hope to the employees, many of whom claimed they left their previous jobs in Monrovia and other parts of the country. Some of them, who resettled in Smell-No-Taste (Unification Town) in Margibi County, said their future is in limbo.

Stilting is expected to leave the country today.

Prior to the decision to retrench the employees, Stilting told the Daily Observer via mobile phone that his management team implemented the termination exercise, “according to the book—the Decent Work Act.” Under Section 14.2 of the Decent Work Act, an employer has the right to terminate employment concluded for a definite period at any time, provided that he has cause to do so under section 14.3, which says an employer has the right to terminate employment concluded for an indefinite period at any time provided that the employer follows the procedures specified in certain sections as appropriate. In this context, it is not clear which of the rules the management had applied before taking the decision to terminate the employees.

“Yes, we have terminated a good number of our staff, some for poor performance, but we go by what is on the books (labor standards),” Stilting had said. He said prior to the exercise, management evaluated the performance of each of the terminated employees who, “did not meet our requirements.” He said the retrenched were happy, “because they were certificated and given an overtime pay having participated in our one-month program.”

The Daily Observer also gathered that Farmington Hotel’s Liberia-based Lebanese partners, representing the Abi Jaoudi Group, had masterminded the retrenchment exercise at the hotel, but the group is yet to comment on the allegation since its management has not responded to the number of phone calls and text messages.

Farmington’s decision to retrench 40 of its workforce came barely a month after the government granted the management a 30-year tax holiday, a very contentious decision in the Legislature.

On May 30 of this year, 34 of the 73 Representatives on Capitol Hill voted to ratify a 30-year Investment Incentive Agreement between Liberia and the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Hotel Resorts, Incorporated.  In that session, there were 38 Representatives present, and 34 of them voted overwhelmingly for the passage of the ‘Tax Holiday’ agreement, following a report from the Joint Committee on Investment and Concession and Judiciary.

The report argued that the hotel or tourism business is a struggling industry in Liberia, and should therefore enjoy a tax holiday.

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