Picketing of Berger Paints continues as negotiations end in deadlock

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Negotiations between the Chemical Workers’ Union and the Management of Berger Paints Nigeria Plc, Ikeja, on Thursday, ended in a deadlock as workers vowed to continue with the picketing of the company which started four days ago.
Leaders of the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-.Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLNMPE), could not reach an agreement with the paint manufacturing company’s management over the picketing.
About 200 workers of Berger Paints on Monday began picketing their company over the failure of its management to keep to an agreement reached on the exit date, for the collection of gratuity.
The workers blocked the main entrance of the company’s head office in Ikeja to protest the removal of gratuity payment from its Conditions of Service.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as, “the labour of our heroes past must not be in vain,’’ “Peter Iscariot must go,’’ “Peter the Pharaoh must be stopped,’’ and “We need decent jobs’’.
Mr Dada Ahmed, General Secretary of NUCFRLNMPE, said that the union and the management of Berger Paints could not reach an agreement over the ongoing picketing.
Ahmed said that the crisis started when the company’s Board of Directors expunged gratuity from its conditions of service, after both parties reached an agreement on the issue in April.
He said that the union met with the Employers’ Federation and all parties, including the company, agreed to give the union one-year, to enable it speak with members (the workers) and prepare them for the new policy.
“The issue is subject to collective bargaining and we all agreed. But suddenly, the company decided to stop the payment of gratuity, which is wrong,’’ the union scribe said.
He said that to resolve the issue, both parties met with the Employers’ Association for over seven hours on Wednesday and the latter advised the union to suspend the strike.
“We wrote an agreement that read that the protesting workers should not be victimised.
“The agreement also read that the `no work, no pay rule’ should not be applied, the workers should not be harassed, retrenched or victimised,’’ Ahmed said.
He said that the agreement further read that all issues should be resolved within two weeks and both parties should communicate back to the employers’ body.
Ahmed said that the union leaders signed their part of the agreement, but the representatives of the company, led by Mr Yemi Temisanren, the Human Resources Manager, refused to sign.
The union scribe said that if the company does not sign the agreement to settle the issue, the workers would continue to protest.
However, Temisanren, in a statement, said that the reason for the new policy on gratuity was to ensure smooth operations and unfettered payment of salaries and allowances, in spite of the company’s harsh operating environment.