Jensen La Vende
JUST over 100 more workers will sent home at the end of July after Unilever Caribbean Ltd (UCL) closes its manufacturing plant in TT.
In a media release on Tuesday, the company, which sold its local operations to international company Upfield in 2018 for €6.825 billion (TT$48,252 billion), gave an official notice to retrench some 118 workers.
“Before instituting this retrenchment exercise, UCL engaged in extensive consultations with the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU). These in-depth discussions were meant to reach a mutually agreeable outcome, if at all possible, in the interest of all parties, especially the affected workers.”
Speaking with Newsday, OWTU’s Sati Gajadhar-Innis said there should be government intervention to curb the uprooting of manufacturing companies from TT. She believes the plant will move to countries in Latin America with larger land space.
“After 93 years, they are shutting down. Sooner or later all our manufacturing will become warehouses.”
Gajadhar-Innis said the union and UCL were still ironing out some kinks in the retrenchment package as the calculation for termination benefits was incomplete. She added that there was also an issue with how the retirement plan would be handled. Both issues will now have to be addressed by Upfield as the owners of the company and not UCL.
The release added that UCL will continue to prioritise the safety of worker and equipment and will be actively pursuing the well-being of the people and the operations of the company.
“UCL will abide by and operate in accordance with all legal obligations in all matters relating to this decision. The company wishes to express its deep appreciation for the service and contribution made by its employees over the past years.”
UCL is a food and house care manufacturer that manufactures spread products such as Blue Band Butter and Flora. It also manufactures home care products such as Breeze and Radiante laundry detergents, Quix dish washing liquid and Comfort Fabric Softener.
Unilever began business TT in 1964 after acquiring Trinidad Manufacturing and Refining, and West Indian Oil Industries, and merging the two companies under the then Lever Brothers brand. In 2004 it re-launched its brand, turning Lever Brothers West Indies to Unilever Caribbean Ltd.
Vemco, which has a distribution deal with Upfield, will continue to distribute the brands locally and will not be affected by the retrenchment.