Phased Renovation of Executive Mansion BeginsóLocal Construction Firms in Charge

Monday, 4th August 2008
Members of the Press:

You may have noticed some activity taking place on the Executive Mansion premises. The activity you are noticing is the start of renovation work on the Mansion.  The work is being supervised by the Milton & Richards Architecture Firm.  The firm has sub-leased certain aspects of the renovation work to other local construction companies including the Liberian-owned W.R. Maintenance & Janitorial Services located in Sinkor. The scaffold at the front of the building is being erected by the Company, owned by Mr. William Y.E. Abourjeily.  

It is the same company contracted to give the Mansion a facelift during the visit to Liberia of US President George W. Bush. The present renovation is an extension of the work the company began prior to the visit of President Bush.

The services of other qualified companies would be sought as renovation work on the Executive Mansion progresses.  An estimate of renovation work on the Mansion is USD$7 million. Of that amount, USD$1 million has been made available in the base budget while USD$2 million dollars has been allocated in the contingency budget, bringing the total amount for renovation to USD $3 million dollars in the 2008-09 budget which has been passed by the House of Representatives and is now being debated by the Senate.

The Firestone Agricultural Workers Union of Liberia (FAWUL) has met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to brief the President on the successful conclusion of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Union and the Management of Firestone. A delegation of the Union, headed by its Secretary-General, Edwin B. Cisco, informed the President that the Agreement covered key areas of benefits for the workers.

The areas, among others, include wages; health and safety; education; housing, transportation; and child labor. The FAWUL leaders described the Agreement, which is to be signed on Wednesday, as a success and victory for workers of the plantation. Among the benefits there will be a 24 percent increment in wages for daily wage workers. The increment represents an average over a three-year period. Salary workers will receive a 19.5-percent increment covering 2007 to 2009.  The increment will be retroactive as of 2007, meaning that workers will receive a 19-month pay increase retroactively.

Among other benefits, the management of Firestone will build three high schools in the area, one at the plantation and another in Harbel. Students will attend the school free of charge up to the 12 grade level. Prior to that support stopped at the 9th grade level.  More details covering the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be announced on Wednesday during the signing ceremony.

The workers have thanked President Johnson Sirleaf for creating the conditions under which workers could freely negotiate with the Management of Firestone, and for setting the standards under which she has envisioned for the welfare of workers of the country.  The President thanked the leadership of FAWUL for the mature manner in which it successfully negotiated with the management of Firestone.

The meeting was also attended by officials of the Liberia Labor Congress, headed by its Secretary-General, Jerry Duplaye. The Liberia Federation of Labor Unions and the Congress of National Trade Unions merged three months ago to form the Liberia Labor Congress. They also thanked the President for creating the conditions and the political will for the progress labor unions are making.

There have been reports in some quarters that the President declared null and void the Buchanan Renewable Energies contract.  The assertion is inaccurate.  The President only declared null and void the 100-percent duty-free incentive granted the company because it is not enforceable. I just thought to make that clarification through your various media institutions.