Last week, La-Casera group of companies shut down operations at its head office in Mile 2 Lagos, saying that it could not guaranteed the safety of its workers. Our Business Correspondent, LINUS OOTA writes on the development as it affects the company.
La Casera Company Limited was incorporated in Nigeria in the year 2000 and since it began its operations, the company never relented in its commitment to supplying first class soft drinks to Nigerians.
Beginning its operations with a 100 BPM line with one independent blower in September 2001 and launching the brand of carbonated soft drinks, CSD (apple, orange, cola and pineapple flavours) in November of the same year, the company has not looked back in its resolve to provide first class refreshment to Nigerians.
With the launch of additional flavours, Spanish pear, classic cocktail, Nirvana soda water, Nirvana tonic water in 2007, and cream soda and Nirvana table water in 2008, La casera, CBNL now offers a range of carbonated soft drinks that allow consumers to benefit from the availability of more options to choose from.
The company has over the years been lauded for its achievements, the list of its achievements include: Finest Soft Drink Manufacturer of the Year 2007award, Award by African Directing Marketing, Acquisition of its new state of the art 200 bpm bottling line, acquired from KRONES in November of 2007 and the commissioning of the state of art PET bottling line 2008 by the Lagos State Governor.
Others include NIS & SON product certification in 2008 & 2010, capacity expanded by acquiring a latest 400 bpm bottling line from KRONES in December 2009, pioneer status for CSD in PET packaging -2010, MAN Award as first runner up for the “Best Kept Industrial Premises in Lagos”- October 2010, Appreciation from KRONES as “Best Asset Care and Efficiency” customer October 2011 and new state of art 666 BPM bottling line acquired from KRONES in October 2011.
With a constant “improvement rating” achieved every year since 2005 by external quality auditors for technical and quality process audit, The Company Limited has remained on top of its game and is further committed to providing its consumers with unique and exciting flavours of the drink they all “love”.
The Company Limited is a major beverage company and the pioneer of PET bottle Carbonated Soft Drinks in Nigeria. The company manufactures, markets, and distributes four flavours in its stable across the nation and the vision is to become a leader in its chosen segment and the mission statement is to provide best quality products to consumers at their every point of need.
It would be recalled that in 2012, the company in demonstration of its appreciation to the remarkable efforts and loyalty being portrayed by its numerous distributors dazzled its trade partners by rewarding them with prizes worth several millions of naira for their performance in the year.
The high point of the event was the announcement and presentation of several prizes ranging from recharge cards, generator sets, plasma television, luxury cars and a grand cash prize of N7 million to the top winners as they were all celebrated and lauded for their impressive achievements for the year.
However, last week Monday, the company shut down operations at its Mile 2 plant on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos, saying it could not guarantee the safety of its workers.
The action was contained in a statement by the company’s spokesman, Mr. Tola Bademosi, made available to our correspondent adding that over 200 demonstrators led by representatives of the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE invaded the company’s premises on Saturday and Monday last week.
The statement said that the invasion led to disruption of production as workers were compelled by the unionists to stop work and sign a consent form.
The statement read in part, “Over 200 shouting demonstrators of the NUFBTE broke into the factory which employs over 780 people at its site near Mile 2. Caught unawares with no prior notice, security guards were unable to hold back the unruly group who broke into the complex, entering offices and production areas.
“Production line workers were compelled to stop work and assemble in the factory yard, where they were forced to sign membership consent forms to join the union on the spot.
“The workers say they were protesting because the company’s management responded to their efforts at unionism by firing all of them, “The plant has remained closed over the weekend with its fate uncertain as leaders of the mob have threatened to return with an even larger force,” the statement said.
The action of the company was as a result of the over 700 workers of La Casera Company Limited who were laid off following a face-off between the workers’ union and the company’s management over unionisation of the workforce.
The workers’ sack was contained in a notice put up by the company, sequel to alleged disruption of operations by members of the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco of Employees, NUFBTE.
The notice dated September 14 and addressed to all members of staff stated, “as a result of the unwarranted breaking-in and invasion of our business premises on September 11, we cannot guarantee the wellbeing of our employees from hired hoodlums and their collaborators.
“As a result of this unprovoked act of vandalism, we are unable to continue operations under this circumstance, unfortunately we regret to inform all our staff of their immediate disengagement.”
Reacting to the allegation levelled against its members, the union’s Senior Assistant Secretary and Head of Education Department, Mike Olanrewaju, said that the company was only being economical with the truth.
According to him, the company had refused on several occasions to allow its workers unionise despite many attempts by the union to parley it on the issue.
Specifically, he alleged that the union had on several occasions written to the company on the need for its workers to unionise all to no avail.
He said the Ministry of Labour had even waded in, but the company resisted all attempts to allow its workforce unionise, adding that the company had in an attempt to block the process, taken the union to the Industrial court with the case still before the court.
Speaking on the recent protest at the company, Olarenwaju alleged that the union got a wind of the company’s attempt to disengage all its workers and force them to enter into a new contract.
Besides, he alleged that the company in time past had terminated appointments of all members of the steering committee on unionisation of workers set up by the union in the company.
He, however, denied that hoodlums were engaged to damage property and brutalise workers as alleged by the company, saying members were duly mobilised to embark on the protest.
“For 12 years the company had denied workers the right to be unionised, when an in-house union was about to be inaugurated, the management of the company sacked the chairman, which made the NUFBTE officials to visit the company on Friday, Sept 11 to address the workers.
“We were surprised that the company locked the gate and sacked the workers. Meanwhile the case between the workers and the company over unionisation is currently in the National Industrial Court.”
But a new twist was introduced to the issue as about 700 workers of the company were yesterday sacked over what the management said was invasion of its premises by hoodlums.
The workers arrived at the company premises in Amuwo Odofin Industrial Estate, Mile 2 in Lagos and found the gate locked and a notice of disengagement.
Speaking on the new development, Olanrewaju urged the government to intervene in issues of unfair labour practices perpetuated by foreign companies, adding that until the workers are re-absorbed, the union would continue to picket the company.