Tuesday, 10 May 2011

“Unfair Labor Practice”

Firestone Held Liable For US$ 249,253.08 To Some Aggrieved PPD Officers

Since the establishment of the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company (FRPC) in Harbel, Margibi County 1926 by Harvey S. Firestone, workers have suffered some forms of unfair labor practices perpetrated against them by the management of the multibillion-dollar company.
This ill-treatment of workers led the then human activist, Atty. Samuel Koffi Woods, II, now Minister of Public Works instituting an action against Firestone in the United States of America (USA) for unfair labor practice, which the company is yet to pay damages to the workers.
 Despite the US$ 13 million worth of latex export by Firestone on a daily basis, impoverished tappers and their families live in red-baked makeshift clay structures, which the management considers as housing units.
Firestone geographically covers some one million of unspecified acres of land, planted with rubber trees that produce several tons of latex per day.
A ruling handed down recently by the Resident Labor Commissioner at the Ministry of Labor Albert B. Jallah, in favor of the aggrieved Plant Protection Division (PPD) Officers, declared that having listened carefully to the genesis of the subject matter, coupled with facts and surrounding circumstances, “We are convinced that the Complainants (PPD) officers have filed a legitimate claim against the defendant/management in contravention of section 70.1 of the Labor Law of Liberia.”
Therefore, the Resident Labor Commissioner assigned in Firestone, Jallah ruled that the defendant/management of the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company, is liable to settle the amount of US$29, 332.14 to the dismissed employees, while amount of US$219, 920.94,to be paid to active employees, making the grand total of US$ 249.253.08.
“It is also our holding that those employees who are beneficiaries, or associated with this case, but are said to be transferred. Defendant/management is under the obligation to calculate their entitlements and pay same to them in accordance with Labor Law of Liberia and as per the attached tabulations,” Mr. Jallah recommended on the ruling.
Some PPD Officers
Genesis of the case
The alleged action of unfair labor practices was filed against the management of Firestone by some aggrieved employees, mostly officers of the Plant Protection Division (PPD), claiming that the company wrongful deduction of US$ 300.00 to US$ 600.00, May 12, 2006 as collateral for security uniforms, which was not contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The CBA is an employment agreement entered into between workers and the management of Firestone before getting employment with the company.
The Complainants submitted that Firestone also denied them their constitutional rights of not allowing them to join the Workers Union of Firestone, and also deliberately, refusing to give US$ 6.00 as a compensation for lunch from 2006 up to present. 

 A Brief History Of Firestone In Liberia
The history of rubber in Liberia started in 1926 when the country’s biggest rubber concession was formed. Firestone’s involvement in Liberia can be dated to January 13, 1925, when the National Legislature approved three draft agreements between the Republic of Liberia and the company.
In January 13, 1925 Akron, Ohio-based Firestone Co. signed a 99-year agreement for one million acres at 6 cents an acre. During the war, the rubber industry languished, and only since President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected in 2005 has the country drawn new investments in rubber.
The first, known as the “Mount Barclay Lease,” transferred land formerly held by a British rubber company. The second granted Firestone a lease of one million acres (equal to 4 percent of the country’s territory and nearly 10 percent of the arable land). The third agreement committed the company to build a harbor.
 From 1926 to 1977, total profits made by Firestone in Liberia have been estimated at between $410 million and $415 million, which dwarfed its payments to the government. During the first ten years of its operations, the company paid the government approximately $100,000-$150,000. From 1939 to 1945, it is estimated that profits amounted to $4 million annually, which were free of all taxes except the 1 percent export tax, averaging $60,000 per year.
In the 1951-1977 period direct taxes paid by Firestone averaged about $4 million a year. When the plantation began operation in the 1920s, tappers were paid 24¢ per day, which would have been worth $9.19 in 2004 (calculated on the basis of the unskilled wage rate of comparison). In reality, 80 years after Firestone secured its agreement with Liberia, tappers earn $3.19 per day, which means a loss of $6 per day compared to what their grandparents were earning.