Laid-off workers demand payment from Unilever

- PRATAP BISTA, HETAUDA

May 22, 2019-

Unilever Nepal employees slammed the multinational company for not paying off the workers at its subsidiaries that have recently shut down. Two of the three subsidiaries whose products Unilever has been buying have closed after the multinational company stopped sourcing from them.

The trade union coordination centre, the common agency of the workers’ unions at Unilever Nepal, said they were preparing to stage a sit-in at the main entrance of the Unilever factory in Makwanpur. Holding a press meet on Tuesday, the workers demanded that Unilever compensate and rehabilitate the workers who lost their jobs after its subsidiaries were closed.

Ganga Prasad Bhattarai, coordinator of the centre, said their protest would start on Monday. “As the company management did not respond despite our repeated requests, we are compelled to take this step,” said Bhattarai.

The proprietors of the small and medium enterprises that were supplying their products to Unilever criticised the multinational company for its unilateral decision to shut them down. Indra Bahadur Baniya, proprietor of Ganga Soap Industries, one of the subsidiaries, said Unilever had not cleared the firm’s dues or paid compensation to the workers.

Unilever has been purchasing raw materials from Ganga Soap for more than a decade. The multinational company stopped conducting transactions with the soap factory from last month.

Baniya said Unilever still owed the factory Rs20 million. “Unilever displayed irreverent behaviour towards its workers and subsidiaries,” he said.   

Unilever shut down Unique Soap and Chemical Industries eight months ago. The factory that used to supply five types of soaps employed 111 workers. Nawaraj Aryal, proprietor of the firm, said Unilever had not settled its debts to the soap factory.

The entrepreneurs also blamed Unilever for not fulfilling its corporate social responsibility for the last few years. “The officials only meet the traders and district associations if the company needs to fulfill its vested interests,” said an unnamed source at a merchant association.

Unilever Nepal produces fast-moving consumer goods including food items, beverages, cleaning products, home utility items and personal care products. The company was established two and a half decades ago as a subsidiary of Hindustan Unilever and sells products under 28 brands.

In 2016-17, its annual turnover stood at Rs4.87 billion while it posted a net profit of Rs999 million, according to the company.

Published: 22-05-2019 09:32

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