Liberian unions are condemning the unfair dismissal of two union officials, Abel Ngigie and Edwin Fallah, by Firestone Liberia. This defies the Decent Work Act and the existing collective bargaining agreement between the multinational and the unions.
The officials, who are a chairperson and a grievance officer from a local branch, are protected by the law on the right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining. The dismissed union officials are leaders in the campaign for better living and working conditions at Firestone Liberia’s rubber plantations. By dismissing the officials, the company is victimizing the leaders to weaken the union.
The officials from the IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Agricultural, Agro-Processing and Industrial Workers Union of Liberia (AAIWUL), were dismissed clandestinely, and the union wants justice and for the dismissals to be nullified. The United Workers Union of Liberia, another IndustriALL affiliate, also condemns the dismissals in solidarity with AAIWUL.
Says Edwin Cisco, secretary general of AAIWUL:
“We are currently engaged with the national government through the Ministry of Labour, the House Standing Committee on Labour, the Margibi Legislative Caucus and the Liberia Labour Congress to prevail on the management of Firestone Liberia for the reinstatement of the two union executives. AAIWUL, therefore urges management to desist from carrying out any further action that will be tantamount to inflaming the situation.”
The union urges workers not to be distracted by the intimidation and to focus on the “bigger picture of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement which is crucial for the upliftment of the lives of thousands of workers and their families on the plantations.”
Industrial relations between the workers and Firestone Liberia have been turbulent. In August, workers went on strike to have the wages of rubber tappers increased from US $8.36 to US $12.50 per day. The company is yet to meet the workers’ demands.
In October, the company retrenched 76 workers from its rubber wood factory, who are now struggling to look after their families. Firestone has been producing rubber from Liberia since 1926 and has received support from the government. However, the working and living conditions of the workers have remained appalling.