By Andrew Jaye
Pleebo, Maryland County–Pictures of residential housing emerging from the Cavalla Rubber Corporation (CRC) in Gedetarbo, Pleebo Sodoken District, Maryland County depicts a subhuman condition for workers. The buildings are dilapidated, unpainted, windows sealed with mud bricks, bathrooms made of rotten rice bags under trees and toilets outside and infested with rodents, roaches, lizards, and snakes. The buildings are in total disrepair and unfit for human habitation. Sadly, in this age and time, this is the inhumane slave conditions that workers of the CRC are enduring.
This rubber plantation which was once run by Firestone from the 1950s to 1980s, when it was handed over to the GOL, is currently managed by an Ivorian Company, SIFCA. The Plantation has come under the spotlight lately due to what some analysts described as “slave labor” and “wage slavery”. Workers are being cheated and denied their real and just wages; subjected to very poor working conditions, and are compelled to work for the company just to survive. An observer who just visited the Plantation and spoke to the Liberian Listener says the current conditions of the workers are so appalling and heartbreaking that he wonders “how such a situation has been able to escape the attention of the national government generally and local officials in particular.”
The Workers of CRC in Wage Slavery
To make matters worse, reports from the camps or housing units of the CRC speaks of workers being clustered into old muddy dilapidated shacks. Conditions seen by this publication suggest that Liberian workers go to fetch water from dilapidated hand pumps that need critical repairs. The housing conditions are so bad that Liberians living in the camps have their bodies exposed to mosquitoes, pests, and deadly insects all night long. Their debauched lives are similar to those of the middle ages.
Nonetheless, this is not breaking news as this matter has been reported by journalists in the past. Yet, the Liberian government has done nothing to remedy the situation. For example, in a FrontPage Africa’s news report dated May 2018, CRC was caught pants down for refusing to pay remuneration for her redundancies of 162 workers. In what was perceived to be retaliation by the aggrieved workers, a red–rooster was hanged at the gate of the Corporation’s entrance as a sign of traditional magic to instill fear in the bosses of CRC. The News Public Trust News Outlet has also written about the deplorable working conditions at the CRC.
A student of the Tubman University, in Harper, Maryland County put it to the Liberian Listener simply saying, “here, the lives of the workers are miserable, disconcerting and utterly unacceptable”.
The Decent Work Act of 2015
The 2015 Decent Work Act forbids poor conditions of workers in the employ of any employer, nevertheless, the government continues to look the other way as Liberians on the camp are suffering inhumane conditions. In the Decent Work Act, Part VI of Occupational Safety and Health, section 24. 1, clause A and B state, “To secure the safety, health, and welfare of employees and other persons at work; to eliminate at their source, so far as is reasonably practicable, risks to the safety, health, and welfare of employees and other persons at work;”
However, poor working conditions and low wages have been a regular feature of CRC. The Plantation under its current SIFCA management has always been against the Liberian workers. They have put their insatiable profit drive above the welfare of the workers thereby subjecting them to such appalling conditions to maximize profit. It is about time the national government addresses the conditions of work at the CRC head-on. Such inhumane condition has no place in this date and age. Foreign Missions and International organizations near the Liberia capital, Monrovia also need to take an interest in the work conditions at the CRC. This is a recipe for trouble if nothing is done urgently.