By Eric Elezuo Photos: Ken Ehimen
The workforce of Berger Paints with head office at 102 Oba Akran Avenue, Ogba, Lagos, have continued their protest and picketing of the office complex following management’s decision to to scrap payment of gratuity to staff.
The picketing and protest which started on Monday, June 12, 2017, is in its third day, and is also demanding the resignation of the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Peter Folikwe and the Human Resource Manager, Yemi Temisanren.
The workers, all dressed in their labour uniforms, and carrying placards of various inscriptions were seen blocking the main entrance of the complex, stopping any form of work in the building. Some of placards bore inscriptions such as ‘The labour of our heroes past must not be in vain’ ‘Peter Iscariot must go’, ‘Peter the Pharoah must be stopped’, ‘We need decent jobs’ among others.
In a chat with the Secretary of union, Mr. Bode Olaniyan, he told the Boss that the essence of the protest is to prevail on the management of the organisation to honour the agreement both parties signed as regards payment of gratuity.
Below is the full interview…
Please introduce yourself and tell us what is going on?
I am Comrade Bode Olaniyan. The branch union secretary of Berger Paints Nigeria Plc. The reason you see us outside was that our management suddenly stopped giving us workers our gratuity. They have stopped it since 2015. It is against labour law and against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria . Even those in the House of Assembly receive gratuity. Even the police and army officials receive theirs. This used to be the norm but our board of directors just decided to stop giving us our own without consulting us. Despite all our efforts to discuss with them, they are still adamant. It got to a stage that the issue got to the national level. The National Union of Chemical Companies and CAMBEF took the matter to the Ministry of Labour. They discussed with them and they agreed that in this April 2017, gratuity should continue, and a tripartite agreement was signed. Our managing director and head of human resources are full members of CAMBEF, but unfortunately, they said that the agreement that their umbrella body signed isn’t binding on us. We told them that if they don’t reverse their decision under seven days, there would be a protest and that’s what we’re doing right now. We have started since Monday and this is the third day.
So all these people here are staff of Berger Paints?
Yes we are all staff of Berger Paints. Yesterday the general secretary of NUFLAMPEP was here. The chairman of the Lagos state chapter of NUFLAMPEP and his secretary were here. We have comrades from Mouka foam, Vitabiotics, Unilever, Xpression. These companies are under the same umbrella and the comrades will be here too.
What happens if the management refuses to yield to your demands?
We will still continue till they listen to use. We won’t stop or back down. Because since Monday, the members of the management board have ran away. We have impeached the management because we are fighting for our right. We haven’t done any work since morning. Gratuity is the future of every worker. You can’t expect me to work here for 20 years and when I am retiring, you wave me goodbye. That is wickedness. That is anti-labour.
What if you all get sacked? Is there anything you are doing to avoid that?
When we get to that bridge, we will cross it. We cannot continue to take this from them. They either reverse their decision or they continue running. Our head of human resources and managing director, Peter Folukwe are on the run right now.
Is Mr Folukwe an expatriate?
No, he is a Nigerian. He is an Egun from Badagry. This is why we are scared of our fellow Nigerians. They try to enslave us in our own country. The foreigners who were here before never tried this because they have human feelings.