Firestone Begins Layoff Exercise, Nearly 300 Workers Terminated

HARBEL, Margibi – Firestone has begun implementing its redundancy plan, weeks after the company announced that it would lay off 800 workers – 13 percent of its entire workforce.

At least 279 workers of the company’s Estates Department had received termination letters by Sunday, April 14. They are from the company’s 17th, 42nd, and 43rd Divisions.

In a communication served to the affected employees dated April 13, the company informed the workers that due to continued economic challenges faced by the company, it had become necessary to streamline its operations by eliminating a number of positions.

“Due to the redundancy of your position, management informs you that effective of April 14, 2019, your employment with the company shall come to an end,” the letter read.

The company said it would provide redundancy compensation consistent with the provisions of the Decent Work Act, which includes salary for the numbers of days worked in April, one month’s salary for the month of May 2019, one-month salary for each completed year of service, and any accrued and or outstanding vacation days.

Affected employees have, meanwhile, been advised to turn in to their department heads all company properties in their possession and give up the occupancy of the housing units assigned to them within 15 days as of the date of termination.

They were further advised to contact their department on April 19 to receive their redundancy compensation. Each affected employee will also be provided with US$150 for transportation and US$75 for each registered dependent of school-going age currently attending the company’s school system.

The management had earlier announced a plan to eliminate 13 percent of its workforce. The company attributed the reason for the layoffs to continued and unsustainable losses resulting from high overhead costs associated with its concession agreement with the government, low natural rubber production because of the country’s prolonged civil wars, and continued low global prices for natural rubber.

Regan Allison, an employee working at the company’s 43rd division who was affected by the redundancy, said he has been employed with the company since May 26, 2007.

Allison said it was an embarrassment for him that the company will eliminate his position without prior notice despite the long years of service without any criminal record.

“What’s embarrassing here is that the children just got through with their fourth-period test, and they’re supposed to take the fifth and sixth,” he said.

He said while the company complied with the Decent Work Act, it would have been prudent to give the affected employees a prior notice. He called on the government to intervene to allow him to continue his service with the company.

Another affected employee, Gbehmie Gbehma, also expressed his dissatisfaction over the failure of the company to give earlier notice of the layoff.

“I am not feeling fine because I signed [a] document with Firestone for 25 years. And I was employed in 1987, March 12,” he said.

“No bad record in my file. So, before Firestone says it wants to pay me off, it’s got to inform me, but it [did] not inform me at all.”

An employee who only identified himself ‘Old Man Kollie’ who had served the company for more than 26 years said he was also disappointed by the redundancy.

Kollie said he had earlier completed his 25 years’ service contract with Firestone when the company requested him to serve for additional years. He said to be laid off abruptly instead of being honorably retired frustrates him.

Meanwhile, a senatorial aspirant for Montserrado, Sheikh Mohammed Dukuly, has described the layoffs as a ‘national economic crisis.’

According to Dukuly, the company’s action will leave a generally negative impact on the country’s already falling economy.

“Nationally, we will be losing income because when they are not in job, they don’t have money to spend. That means even the revenue that could be generated from the tax withholding on their paycheck will no longer be there. The money that they should be spending within the economy will no longer be there,” he said.

He called on the government to make immediate interventions for the company to reverse its decision to lay off the workers as the situation could further increase unemployment in the country.

“Economists believe that every one percent increment in unemployment has an adverse effect of three percent reduction in the Gross Domestic Product, which will affect everyone. And if that happens, there is a fall in tax revenue and when the government is not able to collect tax revenue, we know that there is a budget deficit,” he also added.

Featured photo by Bill E. Diggs/Solidarity Center

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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