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.



What can a Legislator or Government do?

Julius Kanubah, FPA Legislative Correspondent, julius.kanubah@frontpageafricaonline.com (+2316586240)

The appalling state of life for residents of the Peace Island Community in Congo town is not in hidden.
The awful condition is just visible all over the place as one walks within the Island which outstretches to the swampy belt heading toward Monrovia.
Soon you begin a journey to the Island, at first, you are you greeted with a bumpy road and a makeshift dusty look muddy bridge that remains threatening.
What is even more evident is the state of poverty and poor learning infrastructure in the area.
At a program to mark the residents’ stated intention of seeking the intervention of government into their nightmare, it became troubling for higher-ups of government assessing the community.
The Peace Island Community School was a discovery of a disgrace in the 21st Century Liberia. The school made up woven-mats is in ruins and the condition can just be described as appalling.
From Representative Edwin Snowe who represents the District in the Legislature to Planning Minister Amara Konneh, they look upset but not surprised by the dismal outlook of the mat built School and the living condition of the people as this too was Liberia.
In a petition statement submitted by the residents to government, they appealed to government to give a legal status to Peace Island amid reports that they risk eviction.
The Peace Island inhabitants said “they are faced with the challenge of health, education, security and sanitation as well as electricity.”
The petition was submitted Saturday (Sunday- May 8, 2011) during as assessment by Montserrado District-Five Representative Edwin Snowe and Planning Minister Amara Konneh.
Representative Snowe thanked the Peace Island residents for the petition and promised to lobby for them to get legal status.
“Openly I want to state that Peace Island has not been forgotten and Peace Island will never be forgotten”.
Snowe was clear that the condition of Peace Island Community which was established as a result of the 2003 fierce rebel battle for the Liberian Capital as thousands of people fled to seek refuge in Paynesville is being discussed at the highest level.
“We’ve sat with the leadership of this Country at the highest level which I mentioned to you the last time I was here with the President and we’ve explained the plight of the people of Peace Island. We made it clear to the President that we have over seventeen thousand inhabitants here that need security”.
Giving the origin of the foundation of Peace Island and defending why it should remain, Representative Snowe recounted that “because of the civil war; in search of life; in search of shelter, people came on this Island and have established themselves on this Island. Today that we have peace; it will do us no good, whether it is the President, whether it is the Representative, whether it is the Minister, to come on this Island to take people out of this Island”.
Representative Snowe explained that his interest in Peace Island is to make sure the residents have the necessary security. His statement comes amidst fear that government was planning to throw out the illegal occupants at the Island. But Snowe now says as a Representative of District #5; he will represent their interest to ensure they have the security.
The Peace Island is a significantly vote-rich territory as the National Elections during the voter registration process established two centers at the Island.
Snowe said with such: “that is why we want to ensure that the least we can have for you is to construct toilet facilities; the least we can do for you, is to make sure you have safe drinking water on this Island; the least we can do for you is to make sure our mothers have a market ground. And of course, to make sure our children go to school so that one day a Liberian child will stand-up and say I was born on Peace Island and today I’m a Minister in my Country; that one day a Liberian child will stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island, and today I’m a Representative; that one day a Liberian child will stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island and today I’m a Senator; and best of all that one day a Liberian child could stand-up to say I was born on Peace Island and that today I’m the President of Liberia”.
Snowe stressed it was important that the opportunities of children of wealthy parents in Mamba Point are the same to that the children of the poverty-stricken Peace Island get.
With such in mind, he was enthusiastic to introduce Planning Minister Amara Konneh- a key government strategist in the development process of Liberia. Prior to introducing Konneh, Snowe revealed how the Minister had described the mat-woven Public School building which he pumped money into in Peace Island as ‘unacceptable’ though he stressed it was time for government to now get involve as this was not what the people of Peace Island needed.
Minister Konneh dressed in short militant looking trousers with a T-shirt and glasses, took the stage to express his pledge to work to ensure basic social services are extended to Peace Island.
“As I stand here I’m touched by what I see. I admire you for dealing with the challenges that you have here. Life is difficult and our Country has been through a lot. To fix this country, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not a five year project; it’s not ten year project. We are talking about really, really, really, to have strong, strong, strong fixing of the country to have twenty-five years, and then we can do the rest later. So that work is everybody work”.

Rep. Snowe
Minister Konneh described the issues of school, safe drinking water, community center and market as legitimate issues for a community of such size, promising to be an ally, advocate and lobbyist of Peace Island which he emphasized must be thankful to God because it has a very good lawmaker in the person of Edwin Snow who cares for the District and its people. He stressed it was not a promise but he would take the residents’ request to other government Ministries and development partners.

During the visit, Minister Konneh described as undesirable the only makeshift mat-built public school in Peace Island, saying it does not represent a 21st century Liberia.

“This school building is unacceptable! For a Country that is 164 years old, no child in Liberia should be under this roof. Because this roof could be wiped away by storm and the kids could get hurt and these are the future of Liberia”.

The strong comment by Minister Konneh sparked sorrow on the faces of the poverty-stricken people of Peace Island but he was quick not to blame Representative Snowe for such condition because in his words the Representative is not the problem

He said “but be it as it may, the Representative through his own initiative has provided this help. The government needs to push him and that’s what we will do”.

With this promise, Minister Konneh and the government will now be monitored to see whether they can muster the will not to forget the people of Peace Island as the children of the community are now in a dangerous learning infrastructure.


Behind Bars

How an FPA Correspondent was detained for nearly 16 hours at Voinjama Police cell

Barely days after the publication of a Spot News story captioned: “drunk, cheater or a thief-man, the Lofa County Correspondent of FrontPage Africa, found himself squarely in Voinjama police detention cell on various charges including disorderly conduct, defamation of character etc.
The spot News publication in the May 2, 2011 edition of FrontPage Africa showed the picture of a suspicious man who got trapped in a Voinjama dilapidated well at mid -night and was incapable of rescuing himself.
In the aftermath of the publication, the man, a popular local petroleum vendor, now claims the author of the story Journalist Stephen D. Kollie lied on him.
He denied ever being a drunk, cheater or thief-man as was captioned in question mark in the May 2, 2011 publication.
In retaliation to the article, the man only identified as Mettie, took the FPA correspondent to task by inviting officers of the Liberia National Police at the residence of journalist Kollie for his immediate arrest to justify his story.
At about 7:45 PM, on Thursday May 4, 2011, journalist Kollie was picked up from his house and taken to the Voinjama police headquarters for questioning which led to his instant detention.
Accompanied by two other colleagues from UNMIL radio, journalist Kollie was asked by police officers sitting in the charge of quarters to articulate what transpired between him and the petroleum vendor but refused to give any account.
Journalist Kollie maintained that he had been advised by his boss not to release any statement and that if the vendor has any case against him or FrontPage Africa let him file a law suit.
On the other hand, Mettie contended that he has no case with FrontPage Africa but with Journalist Kollie who was the writer of the article. He said he has been looked at hideous in the society and nearly committed suicide since the publication of the article.
After journalist Kollie refused to give out any statement to the Police investigation team headed by one Kromah, the police then charged him with disorderly conduct, defamation of characters, and perjury.
It was not comprehensible how the police resulted to the disorderly conduct charges and why the vendor did not take his case against the publisher of the paper that he claimed destroyed his character in a competent court of jurisdiction.
Just in seconds, the deputy commander who appeared very biter with the FPA correspondent ordered journalist Kollie detention for the rest of 16 hours before his release. 
Other journalist from different media institutions pleaded with the deputy commander and the Vendor not to detain Kollie and that the issue should be withdrawn from the police depot.
At about 9:45 PM, journalist Kollie was asked by police officers to take off his shoes and other personal belongings and enter the cell which is extremely polluted with stinking urine smell.

The FPA correspondent slept the rest of his night in the stinking cell and was later released by morning hours after the intervention of Mr. Rodney D. Sieh and other officials

Before the FPA Managing Editor intervention on Friday, May 6, 2011, the vendor had agreed to family members and friends of Mr. Kollie to withdraw his case from the police only if journalist Kollie was in readiness to pay what he termed as expenses and write a letter of apology to be published and broadcast in about 7 media institutions; all of which Kollie refused to do when told.
But after Mr. Sieh urged him via mobile phone to take his matter to court, he subsequently told the police to pull out the case from their record adding that he would file a lawsuit with an unspecified court in Monrovia.



Residents of Salt Beach and PHP Communities Get New Mini Sports Stadium; Facility has a built capacity for approximately 4,113 persons with a game capability of about 6,675 spectators. A FIFA standardized football pitch with two dressing rooms each, latrine and a shower component.

ld Man Nagbe Wesseh looked in awe at what he described as a magnificent transformation: A killing field transformed into a recreational facility for residents of the populous PHP community.
“I’m glad I’m alive to see this day,” the old man told a bystander, one of hundreds who were on hand for the program marking the official opening of “The Fields Sports Stadium” Saturday at the stadium site in the old AFL Barrack at the Barclay Training Center in the PHP Community.
Robert Sirleaf, the senior advisor to the president paid homage to Chevron Liberia, Roxanne Cason and Friends in New York City for contributing to the project he says will now be a source of happiness for many, a place of comfort, a place that will never be forgotten and a place that will help communities unite, a place where all Liberians can celebrate each other.
Sirleaf lamented that many privileged Liberians may fail to realize that it is out of service, sacrifice and sweat that Liberia; our sweet land of liberty can develop. “These things have been dedicated to undertake development projects aimed at bettering lives and this project is just one”
The senior Advisor said The Field is their own way of giving back to the communities across Liberia.
Not about Revolution, but evolution
The senior advisor told the residents of PHP that their question should not always be what are my entitlement or what government is doing for me, but they should be asking what their responsibilities are, they should not always ask what the government has for them but what they can get from the government. “Today Liberia is not about revolution but evolution of a new legacy where all the children of elected officials can participate fairly and contribute to national and human resource development”, Sirleaf declared.
Sirleaf continued: “Today is not about demonstration but cooperation. So be with us to make the difference, surely my brothers, my sisters, my mothers, my fathers, it is not about party affiliation or personal interest but about community cooperation and national interest”.
The senior advisor further said that it is not about the promises to be made in the coming months and the day before elections but the promises that have already been delivered today, and it is not about betraying the political struggle of a political party, it is about the struggle of national development.
“It is not about Robert Sirleaf, it is about the youths of Central Monrovia, West Point, Slipway, Clara Town, Logan Town, Sonewein, Doe Community South Beach and New Kru Town. It is all about the youths of Liberia and the destiny of our future and our future generations. We stand with you people today in keeping the promise to the people of Central Monrovia” Mr. Sirleaf to Front Page Africa.
Initial intent – a children’s village
The mini-sports stadium was once the home of the Ministry of Defense.  It was demolished by former President Charles G. Taylor administration in 2002. The intent was to construct a village for children residing in Monrovia. But the government never initiated nor completed the project.
As Liberia’s economy fell into a steep decline, the 5 acres became home of squatters, gangs, and criminal activities.  In December 2008, the surrounding residents of PHP/Salt Beach forcibly removed these groups from the locale. The Fields became barren, containing broken structures with half built/ruined concrete foundations. The neighborhood youth eventually turned the south end portion into a sandy football practice grounds. Construction initiated in December 2010, and completion/dedication May 2011.
Salt Beach and PHP both are economically deprived communities with a population of approximately 18,857 residents. In August 2010, the Office of the Senior Advisor engaged PHP and Salt Beach communities through their leaders to determine needs and provide basic socio economic requirements of residents. That engagement led to the construction of latrines, eight compartments Hand Pumps, 4  Solar lights nine scholarships     for some 20 persons (primary thru university levels) and a FIFA-Regulated-sized football pitch. The overall project is expected to impact the lives of about 89% of the PHP population.
It is estimated that 27 Liberian Football Association (LFA) fourth division, 33 third division, and approximately 43 Inter-high School Sports Association (ISSA) teams for a total of 103 teams are expected to practice and play games at The Fields. This increases the impact of the project beyond the borders of the PHP and Salt Beach communities.
The 5 acres on which the sports stadium was constructed was once owned by the MOD. After a successful community engagement by the OSA with community leaders and residents, the OSA negotiated with the MOD authority in an effort to construct a mini sports stadium/recreational center for community residents. The Office of the Senior Advisor (OSA) in September 2010 made a proposal and acquired the land from the MOD.

   In December of 2010 the OSA contracted QLCC Construction Company (LIB) for the leveling and constructing of a mini sports stadium with a capacity of approximately 4,113 spectators. The company began work on December 28, 2010 and completed within the period of one hundred ten days (110). The mini sports stadium was constructed to accommodate residents of Central Monrovia and its surrounding communities.
The sports stadium has a built capacity for approximately 4,113 persons with a game capability of about 6,675 spectators. A FIFA standardized football pitch is hard natural soil. The Field has two dressing rooms each of which has office, latrine and a shower component. In addition, the stadium also has a full court-basketball, playground, volleyball court, eight compartments latrine, two hand pumps, and a non-regulated practice football pitch. The mini stadium is the OSA second largest project with all major components, constructed and delivered on time at a cost of approximately USD $429,055.00. 
Grass roots football is a major and large component of sports in Liberia.  Footballers usually lack appropriate pitch for practice and games. But that is all about to change with the arrival of The Field which will accommodate a grass root football program for Central Monrovia and its surroundings.
‘This is yours’
The OSA extends projects implementation to economic empowerment. The model encompasses construction of latrines, hand pumps, and sport stadium from which revenue are generated. This maintenance model creates sustainability of continual community development, through the implementation of additional projects finance by the revenue generated.
On Saturday, Sirleaf welcomed the Youths of PHP, South Beach, Lynch Street, Sonewein, Buzzy Quarter and Bassa Community to “The Fields Sports Stadium” he described at their new home. “This is yours,” he said. Mr. Sirleaf was presented a gown by PHP Community elders for building such an important sports ground in their community.
For her part, President Sirleaf reminded the residents of the area that her work in communities did not start this year and not in the last five years but in 1998 after she lost the election in 1997.
The president said she organized an NGO but said at the time, she was out of the country but people were in Grand Gedeh, Nimba Montserrado and Bomi Counties working in the field of agriculture until they started to face difficulties which could not allow them to continue.
Today, the President said, when Robert Sirleaf works in a community, he is only carrying on the family tradition proudly for Liberia and proudly for the Liberian people. “We were told by our mother that our hard work come from our family tradition. I will always preserve, honesty, hard work and humanity and we have never deserve from that cause”.
President Sirleaf thanked her son and all the young people who made The Field construction possible.“This is the spirit of what we are all about and that is the spirit that will move Liberia forward. Talk is cheap, talk is cheap, let people talk, but we want to see people who are in action, who are working, who are producing, who emulating. When you do that we all will come together as one people to build on nation.”
Grace Kpan, Superintendent of Montserrado County told the residents of PHP and its surroundings that the day was a happy one and that she in particular glad to be involved in a project that has gotten rid of  the ghetto.