| ABIDJAN, March 7
ABIDJAN, March 7 Former employees of commodities
trader Armajaro Trading Ltd (ATL) in Ivory Coast have filed a
legal case against Ecom, which is in the process of buying ATL,
claiming they have not received severance packages owed to them,
their representative said.
The 104 ex-employees say that ATL owes them 100 million to
200 million CFA francs ($211,000 to 422,000) after it wound down
operations in August, months before the acquisition of the
loss-making trading arm of London-based Armajaro Holdings Ltd by
major cocoa trader Ecom Agroindustrial Corp.
"Our lawyer has presented a case before the labour tribunal
of Abidjan against Ecom, which represents ATL now, for unfair
dismissal and non-payment of bonuses," Mory Ouattara, head of
the employees group, told Reuters on Friday.
"We are going to seize the cocoa stocks and even the bank
accounts of Ecom if necessary," he said.
Ecom declined to comment.
It is the second legal challenge to hit Ecom that involves
its acquisition of ATL, which was agreed in November but still
requires approval from regulators in the European Union.
Ivory Coast's CCC cocoa regulator suspended Ecom's export
licence last month after six cooperatives alleged that ATL had
not paid them bonuses owed for premium cocoa production from the
The cooperatives targeted Ecom, because ATL no longer has a
presence in Ivory Coast, they said.
Armajaro warned in a letter to the CCC that the dispute
could scupper its merger with Ecom.
According to Reuters calculations, Armajaro and Ecom have
purchased on average 140,000 tonnes of cocoa beans a year in
Ivory Coast, roughly a tenth of the crop.
Since the start of the 2013-2014 season in October, Zamacom,
the local unit of Switzerland's Ecom, has purchased around
64,000 tonnes of beans, according to Reuters figures.
CCC and industry sources said Zamacom has around
15,000-20,000 tonnes of cocoa bean stocks since its exports were
suspended on Feb. 4.
In a letter addressed to the head of the CCC and the
ministers of social affairs and agriculture, and obtained by
Reuters, the employees said that bonuses on the 2012-2013 crop,
which had been approved by the company, were not paid as agreed.
($1 = 473.9570 CFA francs)
(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Jane Baird)