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Workers battle Cadbury over redundancy benefits

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August 22, 2006/punch



About 300 retrenched workers of Cadbury Nigeria Plc on Monday protested over the non-payment of their redundancy benefits.

The workers, who were laid off on August 4, 2006, gathered at the companys office to protest the alleged non-implementation of an agreement signed between their union and the management on the redundancy.

During the protest that lasted for about three hours, the aggrieved ex-workers, who were denied entrance into the company, threw stones and other objects into the premises from outside, before the management was able to calm them down and meet with four of them.

The sacked workers alleged that the company reneged on the agreement and offered them benefits lower than what they agreed.

According to them, the management agreed to pay them 15 months salary as redundancy benefit in addition to the three months in lieu of notice of their retrenchment and ex-gratia as contained in the National Joint Industrial Council agreement operating in the food and beverages industry.

But Cadburys spokesman, Mr. Kufre Ekanem, said that the demonstration was due to a disagreement between the two parties which had been sorted out amicably.

He explained that the redundancy exercise was carried out by the company as a result of the closure and upgrading of its candy plant to introduce automation in its manufacturing and associated processes.

According to him, the company relieved 367 workers in the plant of their jobs after reaching an agreement with their representatives on the redundancy benefit.

But the affected workers accused the branch leader of their union of collaborating with the management to shortchange them.

The spokesman for the workers, Mr. Ayo Animashaun, alleged that the branch and national officers of the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees and five directors of the company signed the agreement for the payment of 15 months salary as redundancy benefit.

He noted, however, that the management only implemented the NJIC agreement without taking into consideration the redundancy aspect of the agreement.

None of the parties was ready to make the agreement available to our correspondents.

But in a copy of an agreement signed on August 3, sighted by our correspondent at the national secretariat of NUFBTE, the company agreed to pay one-year salary as redundancy benefit after the mandatory three months in lieu of notice and 15 per cent of the workers basic salary.

The General-Secretary, NUFBTE, Chief Adebayo Kazeem, told our correspondent on the telephone that the national secretariat had to intervene when the management started implementing the first agreement wrongly, which necessitated the second agreement signed on August 14.

In the second agreement, the company agreed to pay only 15 per cent of basic salary for workers that had served for between 0 and 14 years, while those who had served for 15 years and above will receive 15 per cent of their total annual emolument.

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