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Liberia: 90-Day Ultimatum to Firestone Closes in


The Analyst (Monrovia)

July 4, 2006
Posted to the web July 5, 2006

George Borteh

The three-month ultimatum given to the Firestone Rubber Plantations by the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on May 6, 2006, for the company to improve the dwelling places of employees of the Company is fast closing in.

The Presidential Task Force comprising Justice, Internal Affairs, and Health Ministries among others has held a one-hour close door discussions with the Firestone management after which members of the Task Force toured some of the divisions including the main Division #40 in which rubber tappers are said to be living in more dilapidated structures.

The head of the Task Force Deputy Labor Minister for Administration John Josiah told journalists that he could not disclose details of their meeting with the Firestone.

The tour which took the Task Force to divisions #10, 18, and 40, and concluded the tour at the Staff Club where some refreshments and entertainments were provided for the guests.

During the tour, the Du Side Hospital in Division #10 was visited where phase-one of the hospital has been completed while phase two, which includes of laboratory and other components of the hospital, are in progress.

The Du Side Hospital has two clinics, seven doctors, one pharmacy and three hundred bedrooms already prepared for patients' use.

Division #10 school referred to as Du Side Junior High School has been completed along with housing units for teachers but lacks important facilities like restrooms, among others.

As the Task Force entered Division #40, the living conditions of the people since President Sirleaf's 90-Day ultimatum on May 6, 2006, remained virtually the same.

Housing units built of mud which portrays the images of displaced people's structures are still being occupied by the tappers who have been working for the Firestone Plantations Company over the past 25-40 years.

The management of the company has embarked on building some new housing units in Division 40 though, and only four units are now under construction.

Management sources said they will complete the project before the expiration of the ultimatum.

One major feature is that the housing units do not have toilet facility inside. There is no bathroom facility also. Residents of the Division 40 are said to still be fetching drinking water from the nearby creek or river. There is also no hand pump.

The President recently visited Firestone to ascertain what the problems of the employees were. She was told a 37.5% deduction of their salaries, but having looked into the matter, President Sirleaf told the workers that it was unrealistic for the 37.5% to be paid.

But she promised that she would ensure that Firestone improved the living standard of its workers.
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