The staff of a popular paints products, Berger Nigeria Plc., have begun staging a peaceful protest in front of the company’s headquarters, chanting various songs and displaying placards to show their unhappiness with the management of the company who they said reneged on an agreement earlier reached between the staff union and the management of the organization.
Greennews.ng reporters who were at the protest spoke with the secretaries of the junior and senior staff of the organization. However, no management staff was on site, as the workers claim that the management staff have not been seen in the premises since Monday when the protest began.
According to Comrade Bode Olaniyan, Junior Staff Union Secretary, the protest was staged, “due to unpaid gratuity of workers. This is what we collect to go and start a new life after leaving this place. Unfortunately, Berger paints management suddenly said that they have stopped our gratuity, and this does not augur well with workers. Despites all the laws of the land, both Nigeria’s labour law and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria is against such policy, they are still adamant on their position.”
“Two years ago, we had a new board chairman and a new MD, and since they have stepped in, the peace of Berger paints has gone. They are thieves. They came to destroy what some people have laboured for, so that is why you see workers this morning showing their grievances.”
Olaniyan said that despite all avenue the workers sort to resolve the crisis, the management refused to yield to their demands. He said, “On April 23rd of this year, there was a tripartite agreement which was reached and signed. The ministry of labour, the association of the management of Berger paints, and our own association signed an agreement that the payment of gratuity should continue, but despite the signed agreement, they are still adamant. We asked them why they went back on the agreement, and they said it is the board’s decision. We had to let them know that all decisions are subject to Nigeria’s labour law and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.”
“We have been on this protest since Monday. On Wednesday, they invited us, and we decided to suspend our strike, however, after we signed the agreement, the management still refused to sign. That shows that they don’t want peace to reign.”
Comrade Sunday Akinyemi Senior Staff Union Secretary, added that, “Another reason for the agitation is because some of our staff were retrenched. They were retrenched on 1st March, 2017, and as we speak, their entitlements are yet to be paid. They want to pay them gratuity based on 2015 that they said they stopped gratuity, but we are agitating that you sacked them in March 2017, you must pay them up to date. Up till now, they have stopped paying them salaries; they have rendered them redundant, yet the entitlement they should go home with to start a new life are yet to be paid.”
“We had a resolution meeting to bring this protest to a stop, to suspend it for a while, so we could go inside to dialogue with them, they still refused. Our agitation will continue until the management comes down to do the right thing that they are meant to do.”
When asked if the management has tried to appeal to them, Akinyemi said, “If they had been making promises, it would have been fair enough, but as we speak, and to the best of our knowledge, they have not made any move. As a matter of fact, they’ve run away from the premises. They’ve not been in the premises since Monday that this protest began.”
“There is a total shut down, no movement of goods. We gave them a seven-day ultimatum before this protest began. It has lapsed and we began this protest on Monday. They went to the police to lie that we have broken bottles, and that we are making a riotous protest, but when the police came here, they were very surprised that we are going on a peaceful protest. They have been here since Monday. No arguments with the police, no release of teargas to disrupt the protest.”
The protesters added that eight vans of police vehicles were brought to the venue of the protest two days ago. Policemen can be seen around to prevent the breakdown of law and order. Greennews.ng will keep you updated as the story develops.