By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Sacked workers of the Unilever Nigeria PLC who recently filed motion for joinder before an Ikeja High Court have told the court that they took the decision in order to protect their interest in the on going suit against the organisation.
In their motion on notice, the sacked workers argued that, having involved in the actions leading to the dismissal of the two workers who had filed a similar action against Unilever, asking for a declaration that their sacks were illegal, they are entitled to be joined in the suit for the court to determine their fate together.
In their fresh motion the workers led by one Aniyi Olusegun, were praying the court to declare that their dismissal from Unilever PLC â€œwithout paying our entitlements and benefits amounted to wrongful termination, arbitrary and oppressive conduct.â€
Apart from this, they were jointly and severally asking the court to grant an order directing the defendant to pay them the sum of N600 million being the outstanding entitlements due to them and another N200 â€œbeing an exemplary and aggravatedÂ damages in reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendant against the claimants.â€
However, the company in its response to the averment by the claimants told the court that they never broke any agreement with the workers and that the workers were laid off in line with the laid down rules and regulations guiding their employment.
The workers also prayed the court to declare that the conduct of the defendant by inviting armed soldiers to allegedly torture and brutalize them was unlawful and oppressive.
In the motion by their counsel, Mr. Amobi Ogudu, the workers claimed that their interest may be jeopardize if the suit for wrongful dismissal initiated by their two colleagues-Mr. Idono Omokenu and Mrs. Amuda Jimoh before same court is concluded without their application.
In their affidavit in support of the motion, the 54 workers averred that if they were joined in the suit before the court it would enable the court to â€œeffectively and completely adjudicate upon and settle the questions in this case and to avoid the multiplicity of action.â€
Omokenu and Mrs.JimohÂ in their own writ of summons earlier had prayed the court presided over by Justice T. Ojikutu_Osode to declare that their dismissal from their employment without paying them their entitlements and benefits amounted to wrongful termination, arbitrary and oppressive conduct.
Beside, they sought for an order declaring that the conduct of Unilever PLC to invite armed soldiers to torture and brutalized them was unlawful and oppressive.
To this end, they were asking for an order of the court for the defendants to pay them N8 million jointly and severally being the outstanding entitlements due to them and as exemplary and aggravatedÂ damages â€œin reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendants against the claimants.â€
The workers noted that the company failed in its promise by not increasing their wages as agreed with the national leadership of their union.
However, in their statement of defence, Unilever Plc averred that it never made any promise and never failed to fulfil any promise made, adding that the claimants along with some other employees in flagrant breach of their contracts of service unlawfully withdrew their services and embark on an unlawful industrial action.
It argued that the claimants locked the gate to the company with chains and padlock thereby preventing anyone from leaving, this they claimed was carried out at about 2 pm on the fateful day.
In their statement of claims, the workers stated that sometimes in November 2008, they joined about other 60 members of staff of the company to stage a peaceful rally at the premises of the Unilever in pursuit of their demand for improved welfare and working condition.
However, they averred that the management of the company rather than listen to them â€œinvited some heavily armed policemen to stop the peaceful rally.â€