By Victor Ahuma – Young
LAST week following the easing out of thousands of workers out of the banks into the unemployment market, and with strong indications that many more would be shown the way out, organised labour in the sector, under the aegis of the Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIFIE, the umbrella body for senior staff in the industry, gave notice that it would cripple activities and operations of the banks considered to be indulging in unfair and anti-worker policies.
In this interview with Financial Vanguard, Acting President of ASSBIFI, Comrade Sunday Salako, gave reasons why organied labour is taking up arms with the banks. Excerpt.
You are threatening to shut down the banking industry, targeting some banks for that recently retrenched thousands of workers. What is your grouse since it is said that employers have the right to hire and fire?
One is the Unlawful and unprocedural mass sacks and retrenchments by our banks and the second issue is the sale of some of these troubled banks by CBN. So I have encapsulated the two issues into this briefing and I want you to know that over the past few days, we have noted with dismay the series of mass disengagement of staff carried out by banks in gross violation of the law.
It would be recalled that prior to this development, we wrote to some of these banks telling them that when the need arises for any disengagement, rationalization or whatever they want to call it, they should not hesitate to negotiate with us in line with section 20 ofÂ the labour act and article 5 B of our own collective agreement.
Some of them wrote us back denying that any intention to sack and that there was no need for any rationalization what so ever and we thought we were dealing with gentle men. However, over the last few days events have shown that some of the banks’ managers are not willing to obey the rule of law in the land and standard best practice. Otherwise, how could one explain the policy somersault of the federal government?
In April, in Abuja where the ministry of labour gathered all of us in partnership with International Labour Organisation (ILO), under the umbrella of Job summit and right there we discovered that the essence of the new policy was that there would be more jobs for Nigerians. Now the CBN governor had used tax payers money to savage some of our banks and yet the man has given directives to these banks to cut jobs.
What do you call that? It is a policy somersault.Â One arm of government is creating jobs or stimulating employment creation, the other one is saying reduce jobs. We believe there is a dislocation.Â It is as if the government lack focus and the political will to really deliver the dividends of democracy.
That is why we are saying any call for job cut in the banking sector can only come from someone who is influenced by satanic forces or need deliverance by any of our new generation churches. It is very satanic and even un_African for anybody in this country to begin to call for job cut because even when everything is normal, we have a lot of people that are jobless. Now somebody that is paid by the tax payers’ money has given directive that more people should be thrown into the labour market and add to the social implications.Â It is like he wants to complicate the social malice we have already.
Accordingly we have decided to help managements of these very banks, to shut down their operations until they reverse their actions and embrace the act of social dialogue.Â We are calling on all customers and depositors of Intercontinental Bank, Union Bank, Spring Bank,Â First City Monument Bank and those of other banks that we observed or that we noted have just carried out redundancy exercises.
We are calling on all their customers and depositors to begin to hasten up transactions with them at list before we descend on them because any moment from now we will move in to shut their operations and ground them. We are also advising all customers of these banks to make adequate withdrawal since we do not know when and how it would end.
It may be a very prolonged one because we will not go back until all our demands are met. Ordinarily, only a foolish man would allow the labour to be at the driver’s seat. Once we assume the drivers’ seatÂ then we would dictate everything and we would get away with it.
Secondly, we are also calling on all investors both local and foreign who have expressed interest in buying the troubled banks to have further negotiation with CBN as the union would make these organization ungovernable for them. It is only in this country that investors would expressÂ interest in any institution and they would not negotiate or engage in social dialogue with the stakeholders.
We hope these investors have not consciously entered into a secret manoeuvre to buy the troubled banks. If they have, that would be very unfortunate because, we would be left with no other option than to conclude that their intentions are not genuine and have no interest in workers’ welfare and interest.
For this, we categorically use this medium to issue a caveat emptor on the banks and to announce that the union would frustrate any due hostile takeover of the so-called troubled banks. We have also written to some of our allies internationally such asÂ UNIGLOBAL, and we are also getting in touch with SABRO in South Africa, because some of these organizations that have expressed interest in some of our banks, three of them are from South Africa . Let me tell you that this type of thing will never happen in South Africa.
You cannot indicate interest in any institution in South Africa without engaging the union.Â So, we have also contacted our counterpart and ally in South Africa, (SABRO). We are telling them to advise their institutions not to engage in secret dealing that would jeopardize the interest of workers in Nigeria otherwise it will be a misadventure for them.
Are you taking on these banks alone or soliciting for assistance with other unions especially Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)?
Of course, you know that the labour movement in Nigeria is united and anything we do will be in solidarity with other allies, our sister union so that it will be total. We are going to ground their operations because when we move in to any place (bank) the customers will not come.
When is the action likely to commence?
We won’t tell you that. That is why we have said that all customers should make adequate withdrawals.Â It is only a foolish man that will tell when he is coming to fight you.
So, we will take them unaware.Â The day will come because we also know that they are also making some undercurrent moves. So we want to checkmate that. On that day, you will see us outside, doing the picketing and shut down.
How many workers have been sacked these banks being targeted for picketing?
We do not have the statistics.Â How do you expect us to have it when they are doing it with impunity without engaging labour?Â If you engage us in dialogue we would know those people that are involved and we will know the criteria used.
We are not saying if you want to cut jobs you should not, but let us know the criteria, let us discuss the matter so that once we have good package for those who are going, we would also help them to kickstart their life after the job and other activities will boost our economy.
Of course, if some of us do not leave the scene younger ones would not come in, but it must be done in a way that is very transparent, and in accordance with the rule.