Industrial activities at Dangote Flour Mills Plc in Calabar, Cross River State are now at a standstill following the commencement of indefinite industrial strike by workers of the company over non-payment of their gratuity after the sale of the mill to Tiger Brand, a South-African company.
The workers are angry that the management of the company unilaterally transferred ownership of the firm to Tiger Brand without consulting or negotiating with them, a development that has left their fate hanging in the balance given the non-payment of their entitlements.
Consequently the workers have downed tools to arm-twist the management of the company to pay them their gratuities, without which the company would not be allowed to operate again.
Efforts by THISDAY to get the reaction of the management were abortive as all the gates to the company were under lock and key. Not even security men were seen within the premises as the vicinity was a ghost of itself.
But information contained in a memo from the management to the workers informed them of the transfer of ownership of Dangote Flour Mills to Tiger Brand from September 30, 2012 and that the workers gratuities would be paid.
However another memo entitled, "Payment of Gratuity" and dated November 5, 2012, which was signed by the Deputy Managing Director of the company, Mr. Ekanem Etim, and the General Manager, Human Resources/Administration, Mr. Mustapha Ibrahim, stated that the management had decided to shelve the idea of payment of gratuity to the staff.
While the staff members were trying to negotiate with management on how to resolve the issue, another memo "Re-Staff Gratuities" dated December 12, 2012 and endorsed by Thabi Segoale on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of Dangote, was released telling the staff that gratuities would be paid only to the staff who wanted to resign from the company.
"Due to "the current financial position of the company, Executive Management has resolved to outsource the management of the gratuity entitlements to an independent financial institution to manage the funds on behalf of the out but shall be entitled to a full settlement when leaving the services of the company. In addition, this will remain a closed scheme for those qualified as at September 30, 2012 only and no new members will be admitted", the statement said.
A staff of the flour mill, who craved anonymity said, "The issue is that the Tiger Brand did not employ us and we did not enter into any agreement with that company. I have worked with Dangote for about 11 years. Besides, they are now saying that our gratuity would be handled by a financial institution whose name we have not been told."