The Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) is ready to fight with Unilever as the company plans to retrench 178 workers in the coming months. The assurance was given by OWTU president general Ancel Roget, as he met with workers of the company on Friday.
The meeting comes after Unilever, in a press release on Wednesday, stated workers will be sent home as the company starts its retrenchment process in January.
After leading workers in songs of solidarity, Roget said, "This thing is heading straight to the courts, I assure you and when that occurs the company will be found wanted. We urge the company to ensure they discharge their responsibility to the workers, in a way that would not treat the workers with a level of disdain and disrespect."
He said while discussions with the company, about proposed restructuring, had been occurring since June, he advised the company against retrenching workers. Instead, he encouraged them to redeploy workers.
"Several months ago we began discussing the issue of restructuring with the company, to ensure no worker would be displaced. Looking at areas in their operations, we would have seen that these workers can be redeployed." He said the company's action was a reflection of a further national issue that needed to be addressed.
"What we are seeing is almost every day, employers are taking advantage of the opportunity to send workers home. And so the union raised its voice against that approach because there are many different options, certainly in Unilever, that can be exercised to ensure that jobs are preserved."
Noting that there are collective agreements in place, which covers the workers to be retrenched, he said the workers' job cannot become redundant because their jobs were still being performed. "A job cannot be redundant if you still have that job performed while sending the worker at home."
Guided by the OWTU, Roget said, workers have been advised not to accept the terms and conditions of their retrenchment letters.
"They (the workers) are going to be guided by the union to ensure that no one accepts less than what is due to them." He said the meeting last Friday was to update workers about the union's stance on the impending retrenchment and put a process in place to further hold the company accountable.