Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae of the National Industrial Court, (NIC) sitting in Lagos has fixed July 1, 2013 to deliver judgment in a suit filed by over 300 former employees of the Apapa branch of Dangote Cement PLC against the company.
The sacked staff had in their statement of claim urged the court to set aside a handbook purportedly put together by the company.
The claimants, George Uzoaru and Edwin Okoduwa had in their statement of claim filed by their lawyer, Chief S. W. Baidi stated that the purported handbook was hurriedly and unilaterally put together by the company during the pendency of suit No- ID/581/2010 to short change and underpay them in the imminent close down of the Apapa branch of the company.
Also sued as 2nd defendant is the company‘s Human Recourses Administrative Manager, Mr. Kefas Zakka.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae had in a ruling held that the aggrieved staff could sue the company without going through the processes of mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
But, when the suit came up for hearing, the judge raised the issue of jurisdiction and ordered parties to address her on it.
However, Justice Osaghae in her ruling held that the subject matter of the suit was a trade dispute in relation to terms and condition of claimants’ employment.
The court held that Section 7(1) (2), (3) of the NIC Act 2006 conferred on NIC exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases and matters relating to labour, trade unions and industrial relations.
‘’The question is whether the claimants who do not belong must comply with Part 1 of the Trade Disputes Act before accessing this court. The claimants do not belong to a union and have approached the court as individuals. To shut them out will be unjust’’, the court held.
The plaintiffs are also asking the court for an order appointing an independent financial expert to take over the preparation of a fresh and acceptable handbook and to make an unbiased assessment of their salaries, gratuities, benefits and other payments due to them.
They also urged the court to restrain the management of the company from threat of termination of their appointment, demotion, and reduction in salary among others.
According to the claimants, the defendants gave them the impression in their letters of employment that the terms and condition of service were as contained in the Company Employment Handbook.
The claimants added that on resumption of duty they fund that the alleged information was a ruse, as no such handbook ever existed in the company.
The claimants also informed the court that the Apapa branch of Dangote Cement has been closed down and the staff laid-off despite assurance by the defence lawyer that nothing of such will take place.