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Labour tackles Union Bank over retirees’ benefits

By Victor Ahiuma- Young

ORGANISED Labour in the nation’s financial sector, the Association of the Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), is set to battle the management of Union Bank of Nigeria (UBN), over alleged non-payment of redundancy and other benefits its former staff retrenched between 2005 and 2008.

Acting President of ASSBIFI,  Comrade Sunday Salako, who spoke in Lagos, called on the management of the banks to pay the affected retirees their benefits to avoid a major confrontation with organised labour, warning that it would be forced to take several steps against the banks, including  picketing to draw attention of all concerned.

According to him: “It has become necessary to intimate the world of the transgressions of the Management of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. against the workforce of the bank since 2006-to-date. Little wonders that a bank of that magnitude and age had of recent fallen under the hammer of the regulatory authorities. We have just received a signed pathetic petition from over one thousand employees of the bank who were illegally and unjustly retrenched in batches in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

We have it on good authorities that a lot more employees are about facing the same injustice. Our main grouse is that redundancy benefits contained in our Collective Agreement, and other terminal accruals were and are still today not paid. Various authoritative reports at our disposal indicate clearly how the retrenched workers discovered that the branch of ASSBIFI in that bank was unknown to them and those still in service of the bank; that these ex-employees tried frantically through several authorities, including Ministry of Labour, (Lagos State Office), Office of the Public Defender in Lagos State, Central Bank of Nigeria, etc at different stages, to redress this injustice without success; that they would have succeeded but for the truncating efforts of the in-house branch of ASSBIFI who were always on the side of the Management; that needless mentioning the untold hardship they had been going through; that they had always paid check-off dues, unknowing it was not being remitted to the appropriate quarters.

Comrade Salako bemoaned alleged nonchalant posture of Union Bank Management towards response to correspondence, stressing “we have written over a dozen correspondence un-replied, though not on this matter. Now that the bank is under a new Executive Management, perhaps they can now answer. So, we intend to do them a letter calling for an urgent meeting to address these issues, if they care.

Thereafter, we shall take the next step, including massive picketing to draw attention of all concerned. Meanwhile, we enjoin all the affected staff to be patient. We also call on all remaining senior staff of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. to take their own destiny in their hands and seek genuine (branch) leadership urgently, failing which they may be treated the same way as those now lamenting.

On our own part, with the plethora of evidence now in our custody, our National Executive Council shall in the next one week take critical decisions about our branch (Unit) in Union Bank of Nigeria Plc.”
Pension and You, gathered that ASSBIFI combative posture is sequel to several petitions by aggrieved retrenched staff who alleged that the management had refused to pay their full benefits.

In one such petitions, under the aegis of the Aggrieved Retired Staff of Union Bank Plc, titled “ Non implementation of redundancy aspect of the Collective agreement resulting in short payment Of gratuity ‘by Union Bank of Nig Plc regarding Staff retrenched from 2005 to 2008″, read in part: We, as representatives of our members, hereby state emphatically that it is the decision reached out of our own volition, after a careful consideration, to seek the support and help of the Association (ASSBIFI) in getting Union Bank of Nigeria Plc to implement fully the redundancy aspect of the curren Collective Agreement.

We undertake not to renege or withdraw this mandate given by our members spread across the Federation for the Association to champion our cause / rights until Union Bank of Nig PLC pay? fully our gratuity according to the provisions of the current Collective Agreement under Redundancy.

As agreed, we enclose herewith copy of the report of the several meetings between our delegation, the representatives of Union Bank Management and Officials of the Ministry of Labour/Empioyment which acted as facilitators/mediators. Also find included the list of the affected members (yearly) for the relevant years of 2006 to 2008 and comprehensive signature/authority of our members.”

Complaints before the ministry
The group said in earlier meeting with officials of the Lagos office of Labour Ministry, among grievances with Union Bank, it brought before the ministry, included “(a) Pre- mature Retirement. (B) Non- implementation of Article 5(a) d(i) of the NJIC Agreement dated June 2005 between Nigeria Employers of Bank Insurance And Allied Institutions (NEABIAI), and Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance And Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI).  (c) Non-  Release of Contributory Pension Contribution to Pension Fund Administrator (PFA). (d) Non-Release of four years of National Social Insurance Trust Fund. (e)  inaccurate and Incomplete statement of National Housing Fund Contributions. (f)   Non-Release of the Certificates of Union Bank Employees’ Ownership Trust (UBESOT) to the retrenched employees. Being dissatisfied with the short payment of gratuity arising from item (b) and the delay in the processing of items (c) to (f), the Complainant lodged a formal complaint in the Ministry with a view to seeking redress
in the course of handling the case, several tripartite meetings were held with a view to resolving the matter amicably, but to no avail. The claims of the complainants in respect of items (c) to (f) were found to be genuine as the issues enjoy statutory flavour.

The Ministry, expressed its displeasure to Management over the delay in the processing of the affected workers’ contributions to National Social Insurance Trust Fund and National Housing Fund. Management was also not spared for its failure to honour its pledge to issue UBESOT Certificates to the retrenched members of staff.”

The retrenched workers lamented  though  Management stated that it had  commenced  the  process  of addressing the above issues, the affected workers were yet to see the promise being fulfilled as at the time of this report.


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