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Firestone Dragging Feet on CBA Implementation, Says Union Secretary

Nine months ago, the management of Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia and the workers union signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Among the issues covered under the agreement was pay raise for the workers and the controversial high daily production requirement known as quota and child labor.

Now the workers say Firestone is moving slowly in implementing the agreement. Edwin Cisco, secretary general of the Firestone Agriculture Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) told VOA it appears Firestone does not want change.

“Most of the issues that we raised in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, issues relating to quota, issues relating to transportation for kids for school, issues relating to bonuses for workers in the factories, issues relating to the mode of transportation for the latex, those issues have not been implemented by the company,” he said.

Cisco said the union, through its international partners will continue to put pressure on Firestone until the CBA is fully implemented.

“Firestone over the years has more or less been single-handedly being controlling the situation, and may not want to change. And that is why we continue to put pressure on them. Our international partners are also concerned concerning this agreement...that is why we are also here to give an update of what is obtaining on the plantation and to make the management to do what is right,” Cisco said.

During 82 years of its existence in Liberia, Firestone mandated its workers to meet a very high daily production quota which forced the workers to bring their children and wives to help them meet the daily quota.

Cisco said Firestone has yet to completely implement the issue of quota and its resulting child labor.

“We cannot come up to tell you that the issue of child labor is a foregone conclusion on the plantation because this is an open secret all over. And the basis for the issue of child labor is because of the quota system that workers have to complete on a daily basis. And that issue has not been thoroughly implemented by the company. Workers still have to hire extra hand, carrying their kids in the fields,” Cisco said

He said the union will re-engage the government through the ministry of labor before deciding what to do next.

“We have raised these issues with the government. We have our documentations that we have engaged the company on several occasions. We were told that we should do verification; we have done the verification…and up to the present we have not seen anything going on so far. And so we are going to re-engage the government to see how far they have gone with this issue. And if this is not done, then we will take the necessary steps to ensure that our workers receive just retribution in these issues,” Cisco said.

He said the global economic downturn has had an impact on the union as Firestone has been laying off workers without getting the union involved.

“Right now as I speak to you, we have the entire quality assurance department at the factory has been closed down. Some workers were shifted over and some workers were laid off. Not only the quality assurance, but other department workers have been laid off even though the management has not given us any information as it relates to any mass redundancy,” he said.

Cisco said the union’s main concern is for Firestone to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed last year.

He and the union president were in the United States to attend the World Rubber Industry conference which was lheld ast week in Nashville, Tennessee.