By Bill W. Cooper
The Bright Rubber Plantation, a prominent rubber supplier, has come under intense scrutiny from employees, over allegations of ‘bad labor practices’ and ‘modern day slavery’ at the company.
The plantation, situated in Margibi County, which prides itself on its expansive rubber production, now faces an uphill battle to restore its tarnished reputation, as workers are now poised for a major strike action.
The company’s alleged action is in total contradiction of the Decent Work Act, which seeks to protect workers and their organizations against anti-union discrimination, at the time of recruitment and during employment.
The country’s Decent Work Act further gives effect to its human rights and ILO obligations, also intended to address discrimination against women in working conditions, and the provision of a conducive working environment.
But according to the report, some part-time and full-time employees of the company are spending their nights (sleeping) in dilapidated mud houses that were built by the management of the plantation since 1997.
One of the workers, Albertha Turo, explaining her ordeal, stated that most of the houses that were covered with thatches are leaking, while others are falling apart due to the rain, thus creating health hazards for the employees.
She lamented that some of the employees are also using clothes to cover the openings that are being created on the structures, as the result of the continuous crumbling of the mud, coupled with the heavy downpour of rain.
According to her, the dilapidated conditions of the houses have put their lives at risk with harmful insects, as they continue to suffer from mosquito bites and cold, among other things.
adam Turo further indicated that the Bright Rubber Plantation has also refused to provide them safe drinking water (Hand Pump), pit latrines, better housing facilities, including health care, and good education facilities, among others.
She recounted that some of them have, on several occasions, suffered from running stomach, due to the bad condition of the water (running water) they drink on a daily basis.
The struggling employee asserted, “And due to the lack of a pit latrine, we are forced to use the bushes to defecate and it is harmful and shameful to our lives as older women, and this is really frustrating and disheartening.”
“Our children are also facing some challenges with their education. Even though the company is running a junior high school for the children, many at times, the teachers abandon the school because they are not receiving their salaries, and it is really delaying and affecting our children’s education,” she lamented.
Madam Turo further expressed that the Plantation has a clinic that is only operated by a single nurse, revealing that the facility lacks drugs and other essential medical materials.
She also mentioned that as a result of inadequate medication, they have to go to the C.H. Rennie Hospital for treatment if they get sick or ill, owing to the fact they are hardly given their salaries by the Company’s management.
Turo intoned, “We really struggling here o and the people we working for don’t even know or recognize our struggle. It will interest you to note that some of us don’t even know our salaries, of which we can sometimes receive L$500 as monthly pay.”
“Honestly, I really wanted to resign from this place but again, how will I manage or where will I work? So, we just managing and believing in God for better opportunity. And we also hope that the Government will come to our aid,” she cried out.
As news of the accusation spreads, the focus now lies on the Liberian Government to ensure justice for the affected workers, and implement strict safeguards to prevent such egregious labor abuses from occurring again in the future.