21 December 2009
The US Tyre and rubber company Firestone, has operated the world’s largest rubber plantation in Liberia for more than eighty years. Firestone was sold to the Bridgestone Corporation, the world’s largest tyre and rubber company in 1988.
In 2007 Bridgestone's Liberian operation returned a profit of US$1.16 billion whilst paying its thousands of employees around $3.00 per day on the condition that they fulfilled a daily quota of tapping 650 rubber trees. As the estimated time needed to meet the quota is 42 hours per day (based on an admission of Dan Adomitis, President of Firestone Natural Rubber) workers are forced to bring their wives and children to work with them in the plantations.
In May 2006, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) released a report detailing the state of human rights on Liberia's rubber plantations. UNMIL found that several factors contribute to the occurrence of child labor on Firestone plantations: pressure to meet company quotas, incentive to support the family financially, and lack of access to basic education. The report also noted that workers' housing provided by Firestone has not been renovated since the houses were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.
A recent BBC report states that the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia has also recently found that the Firestone Plantation has dumped toxic chemicals in local rivers used by the community for bathing and fishing.
A letter writing campaign on this issue is currently being organized by the Justice & International Mission Unit of the Uniting Church in Australia.