9th June, 2010
Over sixty-four sacked workers of Unilever Nigeria PLC have approached a Lagos High CourtÂ presided by Justice T. Ojikutu-Oshodi, to declare their sack by the company as illegal and unconstitutional.
The workers, represented by Mr. Idono Omokenu and Mrs. Amuda Jimoh,Â in their writ of summons, prayed the court to declare their dismissal from the company without paying them their entitlements and benefits as wrongful termination, arbitrary and oppressive conduct.
They also sought for an order declaring that the conduct of Unilever PLC in inviting armed soldiers to torture and brutalised them was unlawful and oppressive.
They further asked the court to order the defendants to pay them N8 million jointly and severally, being the outstanding entitlements due to them as exemplary and aggravated damages â€œin reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendants against the claimants.â€
The workers averred further that the company failed in its promise to increase their wages as agreed with the national leadership of their union.
However, in its statement of defence, Unilever PLC claimed that it never made any promise and never failed to fulfil any promise made, adding that the claimants, along with other employees, in flagrant breach of their contract of service, unlawfully withdrew their services and embarked on an unlawful industrial action.
The company stated that the claimants locked the gate to the company with chains and padlock and prevented anyone from leaving.
In their statement of claims, the workers stated that sometime in November 2008, they joined about 60 other staff of the company to stage a peaceful rally at the premises of Unilever in pursuit of their demand for improved welfare and working condition.
They claimed that the management of the company, rather than listen to them, â€œinvited some heavily armed policemen to stop the peaceful rally.â€ They stated further that the company invited some armed soldiers on the same day â€œwho battered them and other staff and inflicted severe bodily harm on them.
After hearing an application filed by counsel to the Managing Director of the company, who is the second defendant in the suit, the presiding judge struck out his name.
The matter has been adjourned till June 28, 2010 for hearing.