Negotiations between the labour unions and the management of Deli Foods – makers of Igloo, Morning Coffee biscuit and Sweet cabin – have come to an end following the company’s alleged plan to sack over 300 workers without compensation because a prospective investor is set to buy over Deli Foods.
The company had been accused of taking steps to downsize its workforce without following due process in order to avoid paying compensation. The decision termed as anti-labour practices by the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), led to the labour union’s protest against Deli Foods.
Shutdown threat: Deli Foods had reportedly not been paying gratuity – a sum of money paid to an employee at the end of a period of employment – to the workers since 2012. This, alongside other anti-labour practices, led to the labour unions threatening to shut down the company if Deli Foods goes ahead with its plan to sack its workers without compensation.
The labour unions are insisting that Deli Foods should not sell the company without considering its workers or ensuring that their entitlements are settled. According to the labour unions, the acquisition of Deli Foods would be stopped in its tracks, as it won’t allow a new buyer to take over the company without factoring the workers’ exit package.
History of takeovers: This is not the first time Deli Foods would be sold or bought over. The company, which started operations in 1999, a year after incorporation in Nigeria, first had a change of ownership in 2006, before South African company, Tiger Brands bought it over fully in 2011. The company has its footprint in about 30 states in Nigeria.
Speaking on behalf of the labour unions, the President of NUFBTE, Lateef Oyelekan, said, “It was our members working in the company that came here on Friday to alert us. According to them, all the plans had been concluded.
“The company is owned by foreigners and what they are doing is to sell the company secretly and run away without settling the workers.
“I wondered why foreigners will want to maltreat and shortchange Nigerians in their country. Whereas they cannot do such things in their countries.”
While disclosing that Deli Foods has been avoiding workers’ gratuity since 2012, Oyekan added that, “There is supposed to be a process to shut down. The management has to discuss with the union, pay workers entitlement before handing over to any buyer and the buyer must be ready to take over the liability.”
Meanwhile, the union’s Deputy General Secretary, Mike Olanrewaju, who led the protest, said there’s no cause for alarm as the management of Deli Foods had assured the labour unions that the company would look into the issues raised to resolve them.
Note: Effort to reach Deli Foods for comment proved abortive as the company didn’t respond to the mail sent by Nairametrics while a representative of the company that we spoke to said she wasn’t in the position to comment on the matter.