By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS — An Ikeja High Court, Lagos, yesterday, adjourned till December 6, 2011, hearing in the suit by sacked workers of Unilever Nigeria Plc, who are challenging their sack.
Pre-trial sessions had ended in the matter, which came up, yesterday, while it was adjourned for definite hearing.
The sacked workers are praying the court to declare their dismissal, without payment of their entitlements and benefits, as wrongful, arbitrary and oppressive.
They also want the court to order Unilever to pay them N8 million jointly and severally, being the outstanding entitlements due to them and exemplary and aggravated damages “in reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendant against them.”
The sacked workers claimed that sometimes in November 2008, they joined about 60 other staff of the company on a peaceful rally in Unilever’s premises in pursuit of their demands for improved welfare and working condition, but rather than listen to them, the company’s management invited armed policemen to brutalise them and stopped the otherwise peaceful rally.
It will recalled that in year 2007, workers in Oregun and Agbara offices of Unilever Plc demanded that management increase their bonus and Christmas package. The management promised the workers to wait till 2008 for the increment and the workers did not hesitate.
When November 2008 came, the workers, through the union, sent a reminder to management to fulfill their promise but the management reneged on their promise and told the workers that the company could not afford any increment.
Several meetings were held subsequently between the workers and management to arrest a brewing industrial action but to no avail. The ex-worker then resorted to protest to drive home their demand, which, led to the arrest of some of the workers’ union executive.
“On November 7, 2008, five staff and two unions executive were also arrested. The strike action was suspended on November 10, 2008. Afterwards, the management summarily dismissed 63 workers, all of whom had worked with the company for between five and 27 years.