The newly inducted Chairman of the Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL), Mr. Abel Fallah Ngigie has accused past and current Government of Liberia of signing bourgeois Concession agreements.
Mr. Ngigie made the accusation at program marking the induction ceremony of officials of the Union held at the Harbel Multilateral High School Auditorium in Firestone over the weekend,
The FAWUL Chairman in his inaugural address said Liberia is rich but underdeveloped while its people are poor and suffering due to the signing of what he termed as bourgeois Concession agreements.
Mr. Ngigie asserted that Firestone, Bomi Hills Iron Ore, LAMCO Joint Venture, Oriented Timber Company (OTC), Buchanan Renewable Energy (BRE), Arecelor Mittal Steel and Farmington Hotel agreements are amongst bourgeois agreement Liberian Leaders continue to sign.
According to him, Foreigners are only on a daily basis exploiting the Country’s natural resources, while other Liberians are fronting for these “so-called foreign investors”. He stated that such unwholesome practices that benefit the few and punish the majority must be brought to book, especially under the Government’s pro-poor agenda.
He said the role of the government in protecting workers in Liberia needs to be well clear and defined adding, ‘the government is the custodian of investment in Liberia therefore; it needs to protect the citizens and the investments and not only to be seen as only protecting the investments in the Country leaving the citizens at the detriment of the investors.
Mr. Ngigie in his speech also highlighted several issues he said the Management of Firestone Liberia Inc. is carrying out against its employees including the paying off of 189 employees in August of 2016 who was at the verge of retirement (20-24 years of continuous service) thereby denying them of their labor earned retirement opportunity something he said is still going on.
He also said the management of the Company allows the already stress-out retired employees to commute from all over the Country and converge in long queues at a central point at the Firestone Labor Department for monthly biometric exercises and receiving of checks before proceeding at the Bank for encashment terming it as not only appalling and cost-intensive, but also humiliating thereby expressing the need for the current procedure for the monthly payments of retirees by the management of Firestone Liberia Inc. be revisited especially in this modern 21st century.
Abel revealed that some retirees receive checks as low as US$18.00 monthly and have spent days and nights either in the open sky or be hosted by good Samaritans. He said the Union intends to engage the Firestone Management to make use of the Banking system for deposit of retirees’ benefits and conduct annual biometric exercises as done by NASSCORPS.
He urged the Management of the Company to treat retirees who have served the Company for twenty-five (25) years or more with dignity when they return to the Company to receive their hard-earn just benefits.
He also said it appears that Firestone Liberia is covertly operating as Bridgestone in disguise to deny their members (employees) of their just benefits, for there are more questions than answers.
Mr. Ngigie has at the same time asked the Government of Liberia to join the workers of Firestone through their leadership in advocating for some social benefits such as; Electricity, better and affordable health care, safe drinking water, better and affordable education, better housing facilities adding that these facilities as being provided by the Management of the Company are inadequate.
He called on the Government through the Ministries of Labor, Health, and Justice to send experts to the Plantation to verify the information being presented by the workers Union as it is said.
Abel Ngigie stated that since the establishment of Firestone Liberia Inc. there have been problems between the workers and management of the Company which has to do with policy implementation.
The FAWUL Chairman disclosed that up to present the Company has not made available her management policy to her workers but continues to punish, dismiss and suspend her poor and uneducated workforce on the entire plantation.
“We strongly feel that these actions are not only against the fundamental human rights of these poor workers and their family but are against international labor organization standards to which Liberia is a signatory” he expressed.
Mr. Ngigie added that a few months ago the Justice Minister added his voice to many voices calling on the management of the Company to make know these hidden policies to the workers and up to present it has not been done.
The FAWUL Boss explained that workers of Firestone Liberia Inc. are to be considered as the wheel that is turning the economy of Liberia and all other Countries around the World as such; they need to be appreciated for their dedicated services rendered to the Institution. He disclosed that the workers need social protection such as better wages, better healthcare, better education, better housing facilities and etc.
Mr. Ngigie further expressed the need for Liberian employees to be appreciated and paid for their hard labor by the Companies, the government and other individuals that they work for without any excuse.
He stated that workers of the Company are Liberians, Aliens and Foreigners who converged in Margibi and Montserrado to perform a particular task as being assigned by the management of the Company.
“These people are committed and hard working people who want to live according to God’s principle, as it is written in the Bible, God said to a man through the sweat of thy brow they shall live,” he said.
He meanwhile, called on all workers of Firestone Liberia Inc. to come together in demand of their rights and benefits from the Company irrespective of their political, religious and ethnic backgrounds.