There are conflicting reports today on whether 285 Unilever workers will be sent home in a restructuring exercise at the company.
Yesterday, the company’s recognised majority union, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union, insisted the company planned to send home the workers as part of a restructuring exercise.
However, in a release on the issue Unilever Caribbean Ltd said no decisions had been taken on the future path of the company and work continues as usual.
But in a protest outside the Champs Fleurs-based company yesterday, the union and workers staged a demonstration and told a different tale.
“All ah we in local parlance going home,” OWTU branch president told Guardian Media.
McEachnie said the company had been dishonest and secretive about its next move, adding if it wasn’t for a slip-up by a manager back in June they would have never known about the company’s plans. The union said upon finding out they immediately spoke with senior management and when the question of retrenchment was raised the company told the union this was not the case.
“At the very first meeting, they told us they wanted to talk about the performance of the business. However, the next week at the second meeting the company confirmed that they were considering restructuring,” McEachnie said.
He added that the company could easily remove restructuring and replace it with retrenchment because from their information the intention is to eliminate the manufacturing aspect of the business.
But in its press release, Unilever said the company is reviewing its operations in the context of a “weak domestic economy and a challenging global environment.” However, McEachnie countered that this isn’t true, noting the company had made enormous profits in Trinidad and Tobago.
“They boast that money is not a problem for them,” McEachnie said.
He said the company’s success was due to the hard work of the 285 workers who may be on the breadline and he is now asking for consultation on the impending restructuring.
“We ask for no preferential treatment, we ask for no unfair benefit, all we ask is that the company operate consistent with the things agreed to in the collective agreement,” McEachnie said.
On Saturday, Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said she had received several retrenchment notices despite some improvement in the local economy. Baptiste-Primus encouraged all parties to come to the table with an open mind and compromise.
“Sometimes you have to give up what you want on the right hand to get a better benefit for your members,” Baptiste-Primus said.
Yesterday, though, the union said if the company has to close its doors there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, such as pension plans and pay-outs for those who were injured on the job.
“We have implored Unilever management to be honest, we asked them to discuss this,” McEachnie said.
In 2017, Unilever Caribbean Ltd chairman Pablo Garrido said the company saw no sign of economic recovery in T&T in the short term after it suffered a 6.7 per cent decline in revenue in 2015 and profit after tax fall to $44.5 million.
But the OWTU believes there are ways to save the manufacturing sector of the company and keep the 285 workers employed.
“We ask that the company engage in genuine discussions at averting the closure of this company,” McEachnie said, calling for proper consultation on all the issues going forward.