HARBEL, Margibi – Workers of Firestone have put down their tools in demand of a US$8.36 daily minimum wage, after the president of Firestone Liberia told lawmakers that the company was paying that amount as average wage to workers.
Ed Garcia’s pronouncement at the House of Representative has increased tension on the farm, with workers declaring that the company’s president was not truthful during his appearance at the legislature.
The Firestone president was summoned by lawmakers after a complaint from the House’s Committee on Concession and Agriculture of bad labor practice, poor housing, and other issues.
“As far as tappers’ wages are concerned, of course we pay the minimum wage. In fact, the average earnings of our tappers, not including benefits and rice – they earn an average of US$8.36 per day. Our highest earning tappers earn US$12.82 per day,” Garcia added.
However, workers have largely taken Garcia’s statement to mean that Firestone workers make US$8.36 as a minimum wage, which they say is not the case. The company has, meanwhile, struggled to clarify that workers misconstrued Garcia’s statement.
Workers have now launched a protest, which started on Friday, refusing to resume work until their minimum wage is increased to US$8.36.
Appearing on a local radio station in Harbel, Margibi’s second district representative, Ivar Kokulo Jones, appealed to workers, most of whom are tappers, to return to work while lawmakers investigate the issue.
“It was surprising today to have received a call from my colleague Tiberlrosa Tarponweh that workers of Firestone have refused to go to work on grounds that Firestone owes them,” Jones added.
Jones pleaded with workers to go back to work since in fact the issue was already before the House of Representatives. He told workers that the appearance of Firestone’s president is just the first step in finding a remedy to the numerous problems workers face on the farm.
“They have to go back to work and listen to their leaders who are doing everything in ensuring that the interest and welfare of workers are prioritize,” he added.
Margibi’s first district representative, Tibelrosa Tarponweh, said he will ensure that the concerns of the workers are addressed and a quick remedy is found.
“We, in our capacities as representatives of the people, will do any and everything to support good investment. It is saddening to have people working more than four years at Firestone and they are not employed,” he added.
Garcia is expected to again appear at the House of Representatives to further address concerns from the Committee on Concession and Agriculture.