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Thursday 19 September 2019
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OWTU: Unilever retrenchment ‘a tragedy’

Unilever Caribbean Ltd workers protest outside the company's compound in Champs Fleurs. PHOTO BY NARISSA FRASER
Unilever Caribbean Ltd workers protest outside the company's compound in Champs Fleurs. PHOTO BY NARISSA FRASER

SOME 285 workers at Unilever Caribbean Ltd are to be retrenched. Some are calling it a tragedy.

The workers protested this morning outside the compound in Champs Fleurs.

Speaking with Newsday, branch president of the Oilfield Workers' Trade Union Neil McEachnie said the company made the announcement in June, and said it was going to shut down its manufacturing services.

Unilever manufactures products such as Breeze laundry detergent, Quix dishwashing liquid, Cif, Comfort, and Foods Plant products including Blue Band, Flora, I Can’t Believe its Not Butter, Cookeen and Golden Ray.

He said communication since then has been inconsistent.

"We have been dealing with a whole range of emotions: frustration, disappointment, anxiety. One should understand the psychological impact this will have on people.

"Up to this day, we are engaged in meetings with the management and their consultants, and up to half an hour ago, the company has still not provided full details. They have been giving various excuses," McEachnie said.

One worker told Newsday he believes this is a tragedy.

"If you look around to see what is taking place in the country, a lot of this is taking place. We watch it on TV and now it is in our own backyard. We have a lot of dedicated workers and for this to happen now..."

He added he is not fearful of his job safety, as he has "prepared for the worst."

McEachnie said the retrenchment process will consist of two phases. Phase one is the closure of the home care and warehouse divisions, while phase two will eliminate the manufacturing of products. He said when management was asked the cost of the process, it said the information was irrelevant.

He said, "We are a mature group of people. The OWTU is not unmindful of the challenges the company may face. As a matter of fact, because of that, we would have engaged with the company on many occasions seeking to have genuine discussions to improve the business performance."

He said the workers told management they are willing to renegotiate the terms and conditions of their contracts, but the feedback was: "Even if you work for free, we still want to close it down."

"We are your workers. We helped you create the billions of Euros you reported globally as your after-tax profit; we contributed. Your only responsibility is not only to your shareholders, it is to all of your stakeholders. We have built, we have sacrificed, therefore engage with us, meet with us."

He said the end point of the retrenchment process is June 2020.

Numerous phone requests to speak to company management were transferred to other departments and Newsday was unable to get a response.

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