Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Fund
An article published recently in The Analyst in Liberia highlights a recent community meeting where Liberian citizens clearly said that Firestone's rubber plantation is not benefiting them. As the article states, "The citizens said these lawmakers must at this time compel the company to abolish the slavery being perpetrated against their citizens."
The residents spoke out against the company's continued abuse of workers' rights and the environment in Liberia. The criticism comes at an important time as the company is renegotiating their concession agreement with the government and new union elections are slated to take place on the plantation at the end of June. Now is a crucial time to get involved in the Stop Firestone campaign!
In other Firestone news, check out this letter to the editor printed today in the Baltimore Sun (titled "Keep a close watch on Firestone's abuses"). Click "continue reading" to read the article mentioned above.
Firestone, Salala Not Beneficial to Us
Citizens of Margibi County have indicted that Firestone rubber plantation and the Salala rubber company that operate in the county are insensitive to the developmental needs of the county and its people ever since the rubber estates begun operating in there.
They said the two companies are particularly not beneficial to them. They gave their impression of the rubber estates Unification Town at a meeting aimed at brainstorming to find a sustainable development drives for the county and its people under the Johnson-Sirleaf’s government.
Unification Town meeting was chaired by the Superintendent of the county, Levi Piah, with the attendance of scores of citizens including the county’s Legislative caucus, elders, chiefs, youth groups, students among others from the four electoral districts of the county.
The citizens took issues with Firestone and Salala rubber companies,
which according to them, have done nothing for the county, and are
ill-treating workers on the plantation as if the workers, who are
providing services for the company’s high profitability were animals to
be lowly treated.
The county Superintendent, Levi Piah informed his compatriots at the gathering that the Salala rubber company has consistently refused to contribute to development projects in the county whenever it has been called upon to do so.
The county superintendent
however praised the Weala Rubber Company, as the most cooperative
organization that continues to show hand of assistance towards
development projects in the county.
He said Firestone did inform the county’s administration that it was paying huge taxes to the Liberian government and as such it was not prepared to undertake development meant purposely for the county.
came to Liberia in 1926, and can point out nothing concrete in terms of
development for the county, but can only boast of paying taxes to
central government” Superintendent Piah added.
Some of the citizens who spoke at the meeting intimated that dogs and other pets owned by Firestone expatriates were enjoying better living conditions than the plantation workers and called on their representatives and senators not to sit and allow the company to continuously enslave their people.
The citizens said these lawmakers must at this time compel the company to abolish the slavery being perpetrated against their citizens.
The citizens blamed past regimes for signing the concession agreement that did not take into consideration the priority and development needs of the county, something they described as bad governance and injustice towards the people of Margibi County.
of the citizens who also spoke at the meeting revealed that the company
has polluted and continued to pollute the Farmington river, and as a
result, many of the people who use the river to fetch drinking water
are dying due to the high concentration of chemicals in the water.
But this allegation has consistently been denied over the years by the Firestone Management.
They called on their senators and representatives and the government to adopt new measures that will forcibly compel the two companies’ managements to take concrete and meaningful development initiatives that will enhance growth and development in the county.
Representatives of District #3, Saah Gbollie and Flasher Chideryou and Senator Clarice A. Jah who were at the meeting told their county citizens that Firestone agreement was been reviewed by government and is expected to be presented to the Liberian parliament very shortly.
The Lawmakers promised the citizens of Margibi that they would lobby with their colleagues in the Parliament to insert allotments in the new agreement for the development of the county.
This is not the first time that some Liberians have spoken against the alleged gruesome operations of Firestone against Margibians especially plantation workers.
It can be recalled that some human rights institutions in the country have sued Firestone in a U.S. court for alleged bad labor practices and acts tantamount to slavery that are being perpetrated against people working on the plantation.
But in all of these allegations, the powerful public relations department at the giant rubber company has written off such allegations as unfounded and untrue.