Sacked workers of Unilever Plc numbering 56 have been granted leave by an Ikeja High Court   to be joined as  co-claimants in a suit filed by one Amuda Jimoh and  Idono Omokenu to  contest their alleged illegal dismissal and non payment of benefits by the company.

Justice Ojikutu Oshode in a ruling on the application for joinder filed by the workers  approved their motion thereby bringing the number of claimants seeking redress in the matter  to 58 rather than the initial two.

In the motion on notice filed by the workers led by one Niyi  Olusegun, the sacked workers  prayed the court to declare that their dismissal from Unilever PLC “without paying our  entitlements and benefits amounted to wrongful termination, arbitrary and oppressive  conduct.”

Apart from this, they are jointly and severally asking the court to grant an order directing  the defendant to pay them the sum of N600 million being the outstanding entitlements due to  them and another N200 million “being an exemplary and aggravated  damages in reparation for  the unlawful acts occasioned by the defendant against the claimants.”

The workers through their counsel, Mr. Amobi Ogudu also prayed the court to declare that the  conduct of the defendant by inviting armed soldiers to allegedly torture and brutalize them  was unlawful and oppressive while claiming that their interest may be jeopardize if the suit  for wrongful dismissal initiated by their two colleagues —Mr. Idono Omokenu and Mrs. Amuda  Jimoh— before same court is concluded without their application.

In their affidavit in support of the motion, the 56 workers averred that if they were joined  in the suit before the court it would enable the court to “effectively and completely  adjudicate upon and settle the questions in this case and to avoid the multiplicity of  action.”

Omokenu and Mrs. Jimoh in their own writ of summons earlier had prayed the court presided  over by Justice T. Ojikutu-Osode to declare that their dismissal from their employment  without paying them their entitlements and benefits amounted to wrongful termination,  arbitrary and oppressive conduct.They sought for an order declaring that the conduct of  Unilever Plc  to invite armed soldiers to torture and brutalized them was unlawful and  oppressive.

To this end, they were asking for an order of the court for the defendants to pay them N8  million jointly and severally being the outstanding entitlements due to them and as  exemplary and aggravated  damages “in reparation for the unlawful acts occasioned by the  defendants against the claimants.”

The workers noted that the company failed in its promise by not increasing their wages as  agreed with the national leadership of their union.

However, in their statement of defence, Unilever Plc averred that it never made any promise  and never failed to fulfill any promise made, adding that the claimants along with some  other employees in flagrant breach of their contracts of service unlawfully withdrew their  services and embarked on an unlawful industrial action.The substantive suit has been  adjourned till 28 October, 2010 for further hearing

—Henry Ojelu