In a move that sent shock waves through the Mackwoods Group and corporate sector, it is learnt that unsuspecting employees of the main Company, Mackwoods Pvt Ltd, which reaches 175 years this year , were terminated overnight on the 25th and 26th August, with no notice whatsoever, and forced to accept an ex gratia payment in place of a compensation package, which was accompanied by a letter of termination which terminated them the same day and undertook to pay provident fund and gratuity, and a verbal promise to pay the previous 2 months unpaid salary and other long outstanding dues.
It was however observed that the termination letter the employees were forced to sign, stated that they had no further claims on the Company, thus possibly providing the management with a loophole to avoid meetin g those further dues.
This shocking move, instigated by Chris Nonis , and implemented by Mackwoods Finance Director Lalith Fonseka , together with Manager Personnel and Administration Lal Liyanage has been viewed by the terminated employees as not just inhuman and heartless, but completely unlawful, and, according to them, aimed at hoodwinking the employees, thus calling for justice and relief .
As one employee observed ,” this was a deliberate and calculated move to dupe us into accepting termination.” Most accepted the letters under a protest , as past unpaid dues going back several months, such as salary a travelling and subsistence were not covered in the letter. Over 60 employees at all levels, factory, minor staff, clerical , executive and senior Managers lost their jobs overnight in this drastic move.
This latest development follows in the wake of the disputed sale of the controlling interest in Agalawattte Plantations PLC, the Groups largest asset, by Chris Nonis, Shelendra Nonis Ranaweera and Lalith Fonseka last month, which took place without approval of majority shareholders of the holding Company Mackwoods Securities Ltd , or the golden shareholder approval, and also contravened several Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
With regard to the recent mass terminations at Mackwoods, the Management claimed that the termination was precipitated by the adverse financial situation due to litigation against the Company in May as well as the NDB Bank parate action whereby the Company’s factory at Ja-ela was seized, which the Management claimed , made it impossible for the Company to carry out its normal operations and were therefore not in a position to offer work to the employees.
However many employees have commented that a number of the trading operations are not dependent on the Jaela factory complex and this was just a useful excuse to justify termination. A further unacceptable and false reason given was that this development was caused by litigation the Company was facing..
In fact it is understood that no litigation whatsoever has been taken against the Company, but is against the several individuals on the Board including Chris Nonis for oppression and alleged mismanagement and fraud, following action instituted by the majority shareholders of the holding Company including Co Chairman Nirmali Samaratunga.
It is reliably learnt that, in fact, Nirmali Samaratunga herself was attempted to be removed by Nonis and his Co Directors Nonis Ranaweera, Fonseka and Samarasinghe from the Mackwoods Ltd Board, with no notice and that strictures were passed on her and she was relieved of her responsibilities as a Director over a month ago. This is being challenged by her in Courts. She meanwhile continues to hold her other Board positions in the Group including in the Holding Company.
The terminated employees numbering over 60 upto now, are meanwhile seeking recourse from the Labour authorities for unjust termination and seeking the intervention of the Commissioner General of Labour to rectify their plight where they have been rendered unemployed and destitute overnight , with no other income to support their families.