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Last month end was a day the staff of multinational beverage company Friesland Campigna Limited, will never pray for a repeat. A month earlier, the management without consulting the staffers, unilaterally decided to change the company’s working shifts from original four to three and in the process decided that the company would be shutting down all Saturdays and Sundays, and that each staff would be entitled to a week off after working for the first three months.

Though it will allow the staff more time to rest, all efforts to know the impact of the new arrangement on their salary from the management became futile as nobody was in mood to give an answer. So at month end the staff were left in shock as those who earned N100,000 before the new arrangement were now earning as low as N20,000. Sources revealed some of the company employees who could not understand the basis of the reduction and how it would cater for their family burst into tears. In fact, some staff were said to have collected salary that is as low as N15,000 and all efforts to get a response from the management as to how it arrived at the new salary was met with brick wall.

This reason prompted the angry staff to confront their company’s union chairman, who explained to them that efforts to get the national secretariat of the National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE), to interfere in the maltreatment being meted out to the Friesland Wamco employees were met with rebuttal. The union chairman stated that the national union was expected to take a stand on the decision of the company to change to three shifts and that the process involved the branch submitting such before the national union which will call a meeting after five days’ notice, but to the surprise of the union executives in the branch, the company kick-started the plan just three days after it informed them.

A complaint meeting was then planned for the day the national body was expected to meet, but when they got there, the company management led by the Human Resources Manager (HRM) Mr. Robert Maduekwe, was staging a surprise birthday party for the general-secretary of NUFBTE, Comrade Bamidele Busari, who in turn made sure the matter did not come up for discussion.

The staff believed there was an alliance between the Gen. Sec of NUFBTE and the HRM, which is the reason the company never deemed it fit to obey any government announced holiday. It was gathered that the company made sure the staff worked even during election days, environmental sanitation days and festivals. They even worked during the nationally called industrial action before the protesting public chased them out.

It is remarkable to note that the company had been complaining of not making profit due to the Boko Haram surge in the north, whereas they were busy acquiring properties and lands to embark on their aggressive expansion. It is obvious that Friesland, one of the multinationals believed to be doing more for the people may be towing the line of some other multinationals in the country that treats their Nigerian employees as slaves. Though the management has again without consultation reverted to the former working arrangement, the workers suspect the unexpected one-month change may be an avenue for some people in the management of the company to embezzle money.

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