As Financial Crisis Overwhelm Firestone Liberia, Gov’t Demands That Its Redundancy Plans Be Halted

Labor Min. Moses Y. Kollie

Despite of plan by Firestone Liberia to redundant some of its employees due to the global economic crisis has been turned down by the Ministry of Labor and backed by the Plenary of the House of Representatives, halting the redundancy plan.

Speaking to the state broadcaster, ELBC, today, July 24, 2020, Liberia’s Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe said:” Firestone has not met all of the requirements for its redundancy plan, and that the Executive Branch is working along with the House Plenary and the Legislative Caucus of Margibi County to further discuss the issue.”

The Information Minister said Firestone, like any organization, has the right to redundant but such redundancy should be done properly.

Recently, the Labor Ministry rejected Firestone-Liberia’s planned redundancy, describing the action as unjustifiable.

The Ministry of Labor said its stance against Firestone come as a result of the company’s failure to tell the ministry whether its proposed workforce cut is the “result of re-organization, transfer, discontinuance or reduction of business.”

According to Labour Minister Moses Y. Kollie, the Ministry took the decision based on the fact that section 13.4 (a) of the Decent Work Act, which states that: “change of business or ownership shall not be averred and shall not directly affect the terms of condition of employment of workers who continue to be employed in such a business and their contract of employment is deemed of all purposes to have to continue…”

“That which, we cannot un-do as a Ministry because that is the law,” the Minister said. “Also in section 14.5 (o) of the Decent Work Act, which clearly reads: ‘in the event that subsequent news of employment arises at a future date, the employer shall consider persons previously declared redundant for redeployment.’”

Min. Kollie added that, as things stand, the ministry is not going to “provide the guidance that the management of Firestone needs to affect the redundancy, except it is properly clarified.”

Earlier on June 24, 2020, the management of Firestone Liberia in a communication to the Ministry of Labour announced plans to further reduce their workforce by laying off 374 staffs on or before July 26, 2020.  However, in the letter, the company did not indicate the purpose of the planned workforce cut.

Similarly, in September of 2018, Minister Kollie noted, that Firestone Liberia sent a notice to the Ministry indicating that they were about to redundant 600 employees — a move the government requested to be done in phases.

The reason for this, Min. Kollie added, is that the government wanted the would-be redundant employees “be given first right of refusal.”

“This Government through the Ministry of Labour wishes to encourage Firestone to defer its intended action as mentioned in its recent communication in order to find an alternative to the termination of employees’ employment.

“And this is very serious because President George Weah is very concerned about this matter, especially where a company intends to carry on redundancy on the Independence Day of this Country — July 26,” he said.

Minister Kollie, however, believes that those to be made redundant should be considered for another opportunity. He encouraged Firestone to sit with “us as a government so that we can find the way forward and it should be a win-win situation.

“Our people cannot be losing jobs while we already have a huge health crisis, coping with global economic issues. We strongly believe that Firestone as a strong partner to this country will reconsider their decision.”

It can be recalled that Firestone Liberia in 2019 slashed its workforce by 800 employees, representing 13 percent of the total number of employees.

The company also said their decision was reached after a thorough and strategic review of its current operations, coupled with unsustainable losses resulting from high overhead costs associated with the company’s Concession Agreement with the Government of Liberia, low natural rubber production because of the country’s prolonged civil wars and continued low global natural rubber prices.

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