Tension Erupts In Firestone, Workers Reject New CBA

Tension has reportedly erupted on the plantation of Firestone Liberia in Margibi County, as workers there are said to have unanimously rejected a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the company and the workforce.

At a recent meeting called by the leadership of the workforce on the plantation, the aggrieved workers said they cannot honor the new CBA on grounds that the document is at the disadvantage of the ordinary employees.

During the meeting, the workers’ representatives and supervisors accused the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) of being induced financially by the management of Firestone so as to sign the bogus CBA at their disadvantage.

According to a local journalist who spoke from the Plantation, during the meeting, the supervisors and bloc representatives angrily accused their union of doing nothing to ensure that the well-being of ordinary tappers are protected.

It can be recalled that on March 6, 2017, Firestone workers angrily boycotted a planned meeting with the company management on grounds that an initial CBA between the workers and the company had already been tempered-with at the disadvantage of the workforce.

Expressing their dissatisfaction to journalists following their boycott actions, some of the aggrieved workers accused Firestone’s Human Resource Director, Winleta Aynn Henries of allegedly deleting several cardinal issues or points that seek to promote the welfare of workers on the Plantation.

According to the aggrieved employees, one critical issue that was not clearly specified in the new CBA is the issue that has to do with ‘counts 17, 19, and 39′ of the document which talks about pension or retirement.

They indicated that count 17 of the CBA which is being supported by ordinary workers, covered issues of housing allowances for workers who are living outside Firestone’s concession area, US$15 allowance as well as monthly compensation for casual workers, extra benefits for employed workers, housing allowances as well as settle the issues of salaries disparity among others.

The aggrieved workers said how and when Firestone will transfer its pension liabilities to the government is not well understood as indicated in the document. Some of the aggrieved employees are meanwhile demanding that pensioners be given special packages containing money and other benefits for their labors over the years, something the company management is said to have rejected.

The aggrieved workers said it was unfair for the company to refuse to provide special package for individuals who have labored for the company for more than 25 years, adding that transferring pension liabilities to the government is a clever ploy designed by the company not to fulfill its responsibilities.

According to them, Firestone’s management informed workers recently that the company had already concluded negotiation with the Liberian government so as to transfer pension responsibility to the government, via the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation.

The aggrieved worker accused Firestone management of deducting US$30 from each worker who were supposed to pay US$15 as their monthly housing fees.

“During the meeting which saw harsh verbal exchanges between the workers’ representatives and the union, the Workers Union President, Mr. Harris Kerkula acknowledged some of the workers’ concerns but appealed to the workers to be very patient on grounds that Firestone management was already in the process of correcting some of the issues raised and that said amendments would have been embedded in a new CBA.

Immediately following Kerkulah’s comments, serious disagreement emerged from the workers who vowed never to accept a document that is not in their interest,” journalist, Sunday-boy Davies told the Frontier from Margibi.

In an attempt to persuade the angry workers according to the journalist, the Union’s President Kerkula added his voice to the many voices calling on the company not to transfer pension responsibility to the government.

“To ease the tension, Kerkulah informed the aggrieved workers that he backs fully their recommendation for Firestone not to transfer pension liabilities to the government on grounds that over the years, Firestone has had a good pension policy, something he said attracted many people to the company,” Davies indicated.

Meanwhile, our reporter further noted that Factory workers at the Plantation have reportedly laid down their tools in demand of huge bonuses owed them by the company.

Journalist Davies said the Factory workers are demanding bonuses for 11 months, during which time they allegedly produced over 34.1 tons of rubber.

Our reporter quoted the Factory Chairman, Moses Butler as saying that Firestone promised to provide extra bonuses for each Factory workers if they produce over 34 tons of rubber in less than a year but added that Firestone has allegedly failed to pay them their bonuses despite reaching the target.

All efforts to verify the information from Firestone did not materialize as several calls placed to the company’s Press Office could not be answered

Source: The Frontier

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About Cholo Brooks 16111 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.