Misunderstandings have erupted between employees of Universal Industries (Malawi) Limited and former management over severance pay following the selling of the company to Magnolia Investments Limited (part of Central Poultry Group).
The former managers announced on Monday that Magnolia Investments Limited has acquired 100 percent shareholding in Universal Industries Limited and Universal Farming and Milling Limited both owned by the biscuits, confectionary and beverages company which started operating in the country in 1958.
The over 100 employees, who claim the news took them by surprise, are demanding severance pay, an assurance of job security and also an assurance of remittance of members severance due entitlements to Old Mutual.
When The Nation visited the company yesterday, members of staff were seen loitering around the premises as the former managers, new managers and members of the company’s workers union were locked up in a meeting to discuss the way forward.
“We will sit here and wait. As you can see, no one has the energy to work today as our future is uncertain. We have been hearing rumours and sometimes read in the papers that our managers were planning to sell off the company but every time we inquired from them they assured us that there were no such plan,” explained an employee who opted for anonymity.
In a separate interview, a member of the workers union at the company said they were disappointed with the former managers’ secrecy over the matter.
“Now that the company is in different hands, we want the former managers to pay us off and the new managers to rehire us if they need our services.
“Although the new managers have assured us that there will be no job loss, we do not believe them. Look at what happened with Malawi Savings Bank [MSB], employees were assured that they would keep their jobs but a few months down the line over 200 of them got fired,” he said.
According to the union member, Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development officials were invited to the meeting to explain what should happen when a company changes ownership, but they excused themselves, saying they will only intervene if dialogue between the two parties fails.
One of the former managers Dish Amin refused to comment, saying he was in a meeting.
But lawyer Justin Dzonzi said in an interview that according to the Pensions Act, in the event of change of ownership of a company, payment of severance does not apply when there is no job loss. n