Salala Rubber Corporation is one of many multi-national companies contributing to Liberia's economy and its sustainable development agenda for transformation. Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC) covers a surface of 8,000 hectares. The concession is lying and situated in the Da-Ta Clan and Gibi District in Margibi County, several kilometers away from Monrovia. It has 2,084 hectares as mature areas, plus 2,721 in the immature areas.
For over five (5) decades, SRC has been contributing to the economic viability of Liberia. The company entered into a concession agreement with the Government of Liberia on August 1, 1959. Since then the company has been working full-scale, even in the midst of the Ebola virus outbreak, it is only teachers that have been temporarily redundant.
It is currently paying teachers in their school system 50% of their salaries while staying at home in keeping with the Labour Law of Liberia. The company feels this is a way of sustaining its workforce in the midst of the Ebola virus epidemic and the global economic meltdown.
The Human Resource and Administrative Manager at Salala Rubber Corporation (SRC), told visiting journalists that the immediate focus of SRC at the moment is to develop and rejuvenate the plantation. He also passionately spoke of a very cordial relationship that exists amongst the entire workforce, senior level management and expatriates, which recognizes a workers union, and local staff association.
On challenges faced, he said there are claims from local residents of encroachment on their private land, non- payment for crops said to have been damaged during the plantation's extension process, desecration of traditional and burial sites, pollution of water sources among others, all of which he said are not unique to SRC, and that these are the very same claims that are being raised by local residents against other companies working in the agricultural sector across Liberia. He maintained that their claims are untrue, and that SRC has paid for damaged crops, respected sacred sites, and has always operated within the confines of its August 1, 1959 concession agreement with the Government of Liberia. However, every attempt by the company to access the undeveloped parts of its concession is viewed by local residents as encroachment, which is the main obstacle to the full development of the 8,000 hectares of land granted in Margibi County under the August 1, 1959 concession agreement with the Government of Liberia.
In addressing their claims, he said SRC had always dialogued with the local residents, with the involvement of the Margibi County administration, and sometimes the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the situation required.
On the way forward, he said the corporation is committed to the promotion of economic empowerment, and social development in Liberia, and at the same time it is also committed to fully develop land granted under its concession agreement, and to build a disciplined, and highly motivated work force. Concluding He emphasized that it is in the collective interest of the company and residents in the surrounding communities to peacefully coexist, since the plantation's operation is for the long term, and it will definitely yield economic and other benefits to those communities.
The workers union in a recent radio talk show aired in Liberia lavished praises on SRC's management for the leverage granted them as well as regularizing their just and other fringe benefits.
For over (50) years, SRC has remained a major employer complementing Government of Liberia (GOL) efforts in balancing the labor sector. Many extended families in Liberia and elsewhere depend on employment opportunities offered by the company. Salala Rubber Corporation maintains an enviable record of being the only agriculture concession company paying higher wages to its workers. From 3.06 per hour of labor in August 2007, SRC now boasts of 5.30 as minimum daily wage in just (3) three years period. This increment especially in the wages of its unionized workforce signifies SRC's commitment to prioritizing the welfare of its entire workforce.
The plantation manager at SRC is Mr. AluppyShanid, an expatriate with very good interpersonal skills. His human relations resonates his position as plantation manager. He has to deal with large number of workers. Mr. Shanid says SRC has given (4) four hectares of farmland to communities and villages. This gesture he believed will enhance the livelihood of everyone living in SRC concession areas. The company be intoned has a strategy of working around the 30 years productivity period of trees in the plantation.
Plantation Manager AlupyShanid explained that SRC has halted its plantation expansion exercise in concession areas and surrounding villages. He however told journalist that SRC has already paid crop compensation for earlier expansion exercises in line with the company's policy.
Concessions throughout history will have to tackle the issue of environmental concerns. For William Quaye, the International Safety Organization (ISO)/ Health Environment and Safety (HSE) officer, Salala Rubber Corporation is ISO compliant and that the company protects/preserves biodiversity as well as protecting swamps in its concession areas.
Mr. Quaye says SRC has over the years adhered to EPA regulations and that Environment Assessment Plans/ Environmental Impact Assessment (EAI) are given high priority by the company. The company was found to be environmentally friendly and compliant.
Throughout the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, SRC has never closed its health facilities and the company has provided healthcare services to communities and villages within its plantations. Safety measures within its many workshops are strictly observed with social security benefits and measures properly in place.
SRC also has it's constraints in the midst of a global economic meltdown. Prices of rubber on the international scene and theft of latex have for some time posed some problem for the company. But the company has found a way to deter theft and other unwholesome activities against company policies. Latex is now processed in the company's premises. Such was formerly done in the plantations. This method has seemingly worked and has saved the company the problem of Latex Theft. The fluctuation of global rubber prices has also helped to reduce Latex Theft. SRC contracts private security firms to help in plantation protection. The good and hardworking Liberian Management Team at SRC is quietly achieving the much needed results for progress and maximum productivity.
The company is to shortly renew its concession agreement with the Government of Liberia (GOL) in a couple of months. The positives in favor of SRC are enormous and indeed SRC is a true partner in progress.