Workers in the food sector of the economy yesterday shut down Dangote Flour Mills Plc and Savannah Sugar Company Limited over the suspension of their staff’s gratuity.
The workers under the umbrella of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB) who embarked on indefinite strike picketed the two organisations simultaneously.
The President of the union, who is also the President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said the union was moved by a high sense of patriotism to condemn the unilateral action of stoppage of gratuity in Dangote Flour Mills Plc and Savannah Sugar Company Limited.
He said: “Towards the end of year 2012, the whole staff in Savannah Sugar Company Limited and Dangote Flour Plc in Apapa, Calabar, Ilorin, Ikorodu and Kano factories was inundated with the unilateral decision by the management of these companies to abolish gratuity without reaching an agreement with the workers nor have any document to commit the concerned staff to the stoppage.
“Dangote Flour Mills Limited and Savannah Sugar Company Limited under the management of Dangote Industries Limited are members of the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) and by virtue of this, they are both signatories to the agreement that makes gratuity a negotiable item in the industry’s Appendix ‘B’ to date.
“Our association has emphasised in our various engagements with the management of the company that it would be a misnomer to hold on to the erroneous opinion of misinterpreting the Pension Act 2004 that it calls for the stoppage of gratuity. Rather, the law allows for pension and gratuity to exist side by side.”
Olaleye lamented that the effect of the current unilateral decision is inhuman and attempt to undermine the power of the union and a total disregard for the collective agreement in the industry.
He said the investigation of the union showed that Dangote Flour Mills Plc has been transiting from one owner to another and the association has been mounting pressure on the management to restore gratuity once and for all in order to ensure that FOBTOB members who have committed themselves to the progress of the company are not denied their rightful entitlements and quality of life after retirement.
He added: “All FOBTOB members wish to state categorically that it would stand against the stoppage of gratuity in the food, beverage and tobacco industry. We are also strongly opposed to any attempt by any management to further pauperise our members in the above-named companies, despite declaration of huge profits which necessitate several corporate social responsibilities as seen in the media.”
He said that the management has forced the union to direct its members in these companies to commence an indefinite strike from last Monday, October 28, in order to press home their demands.