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Banks shun FG’s order as Oceanic sacks 1,000

By Funmi Komolafe, Babajide Komolafe & Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOS—In apparent defiance of the Federal Government’s directive against retrenchments in the banks, Oceanic Bank yesterday sacked no fewer than 1,000 staff.

On Sunday, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode,  called for an end to the massive lay-offs of employees  by commercial  banks operating in  the country.

Meanwhile, organised labour in the nation’s financial sector, under the umbrella of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFI, yesterday, condemned the wave of retrenchments and vowed to cripple the operations of Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic International Bank, Union Bank Plc. First City Monumental Bank and other banks said to have eased workers without due process.

Victims get severance package

Some of the affected staff told Vanguard that they were first denied access to the bank’s intranet before the letter of retrenchment was handed over to them.

“Once you can’t log into the system you know you are affected,” an affected staff told Vanguard.
It was also gathered that the management of the bank, however, gave the sacked staff a severance package of one year upfront and three months’ salary.

However, many of the affected staff might end up going home with nothing as many of them have taken huge loans which would be deducted from the value of the severance package. A staff who confirmed this said, “You know, we bankers live on loans and by the time you deduct these loans from the severance package most of us might not get anything at the end of the day.”

Bank to sack  1,500 more

Meanwhile, Vanguard gathered that one of the two biggest banks might lay-off no fewer than 1,500 staff this week. The bank had in October sacked 485 workers and indicated to staff that another retrenchment would be conducted before year end.

“We are all working in fear these days as nobody knows who might be affected, all we know is that the bank is going to retrench before Christmas,” a staff of the bank said.

The banking industry has been experiencing unprecedented staff retrenchment since the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, concluded special audit of the banks and took over the management of eight.

The wave of retrenchment is being aggravated by a directive from CBN to the eight troubled banks that they should reduce cost, including staff emolument by 30 per cent. Last week, Intercontinental Bank sacked 1,500 staff two weeks after it sacked about 50 senior managers. UBA also sacked 1,000 staff last week about a month after it had sacked 400.

In October, First Bank and Stanbic/IBTC sacked 485 and 300 staff respectively.

But, on Sunday, the minister called for an end to the massive lay-offs of workers by commercial banks. The minister spoke in Abuja while addressing the media in his office. He said the global economic meltdown should be a challenge and a source of diversification to visionary managers of the economy and not a basis for retrenchment of workers.

He warned that the recent report on the mass retrenchment in the banking industry would not be tolerated by the government, hence his resolved to meet with the operators in the banking industry including the Central Bank which is the regulator of the banking industry.

The minister added that his meetings with the banking operators will be on-going until the retrenchment in the sector is addressed and appealed to the affected workers to exercise patience as the government was doing everything within the ambit of the law to address the matter.

Labour vows to picket banks

Meanwhile, ASSBIFI, yesterday condemned the wave of retrenchments and vowed to cripple the operations of Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic International Bank, Union Bank Plc. First City Monumental Bank and other banks said to have eased workers without due process.

Reacting to yesterday’s sack of over 1,000 by Oceanic International Bank, ASSBIFI’s Acting President, Mr. Sunday Salako, said the association had begun to mobilise workers and allies with a view to crippling business activities of erring banks over the unlawful and non-procedural mass staff retrenchment in the last few days.

According to him: “We are calling on all customers/depositors of Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic International Bank, Union Bank Plc. United Bank for Africa (UBA), First City Monumental Bank to make haste in rounding up their outstanding transactions with these banks before the end of the festive period, as we are set to mobilise all forces at our disposal to ground their operations until the right of our members are respected and the gross injustice that these mass lay-offs is reversed.

‘’We have decided to help the management of these erring banks to shut down until they reverse their actions and embrace the act of social dialogue.”

Salako lamented that the mass sack in the banks in the last few days had shown that some of the banks’ managements were not willing to obey the rule of law and best practices.


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