By Victor Ahiuma-Young
UMBRELLA body for senior workers in the nationâ€™s banking sector, the Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), has petitioned President Yarâ€™ Adua faulting alleged directives by the apex bank to the banksÂ not only reduceÂ staff strength by 30 per cent, but to also cut salaries of workers by the same margin.
In a petitionÂ to the President and a copy of which was sent among others toÂ Ministers of Labour, Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)â€™s Governor, the associationÂ called on the President to prevail of the CBN to reverse its unfair labour directives to avoid provoking industrial unrest in the banking sector.
The petition signed by the Secretary General of ASSBIFI, Comrade Jarvis Erhomosele, lamented the said directives through a circular to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officers of the troubled Banks instructing them to cut staff strength, slash workersâ€™ salary and other forms of emoluments by at least, 30 per cent, intensify deposit mobilisation by every means possible and embark on any other activity that may enable them to â€˜utilise some hidden economies of scale in their operationsâ€™.
According to the petition: â€œThis directive to our mind runs foul of the fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is also contrary to the letters and spirit of the CBN-induced reforms of 2004, as encapsulated in the â€œGuidelines and Incentives on
Consolidation in the Nigerian Banking Industry-August 5, 2004â€, which provides inter alia: (Article 9.2), â€œTo ameliorate the effect of possible job losses or redundancies, any staff exiting as a result of the consolidation should be compensated by the consolidated entity in line with industry standards but not below terms of their sustaining employment.
Article 9.3., â€œIn addition, the CBN will work with the Bankersâ€™ Committee to assist the staff that will be disengaged to access the SMIEIS fund to set up their own SMEâ€™S and consequently create jobs and wealth.â€ We are particularly miffed that the CBN directive is against the Federal Governmentâ€™s memo, SGF.8/V1I/305, dated 26th March, 2009, on the â€œImplementation of Approved Incentives on Federal Governmentâ€™s Response to the Demand for an Upward Review of the National Minimum Wage â€œwherein the Federal Government assured the organised labour movement that Mr. President had approved some initiatives to cushion the effects of economic downturn on workers. We therefore, wonder aloud why the policy somersault by the CBN.â€
â€œIt is imperative for us to clarify that sound industrial practice and standard good corporate governance world-wide, do not question the discretion of some employers to â€˜hire and fireâ€™; this must however, follow the International Labour Conventions, extant municipal Labour laws and existing industry-wide Collective Agreement.
Neither the CBN nor any employer (in this case, banksâ€™ managements) have the legal sinew to promote unfettered and arbitrary staff rationalisation, contrary to provisions of Section 20 of the Labour Act, particularly Subsection l(c) which stipulates that:: â€œThe employer shall use his best endeavours to negotiate redundancy payments to any Â Â Â discharged worker who is not protected by regulations made under Sub-section (2) of this sectionâ€.
This statutory requirement is further highlighted in our subsisting industry-wide Collective Agreement in its Part II (Section l).