By Babajide Komolafe & Victor Ahiuma-Young
LAGOSâ€”IN a desperate bid to abort the planned picketing and disruption of operations ofÂ banks over the on-going mass sack of workers, the Federal Government has summoned the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN; Chief Executives of banks and organised labour for a meeting aimed at finding solution to the looming industrial unrest.
Meantime, in a statement last night, CBN said, â€œItÂ never directed commercial banks to sack staff or rationalise branches as reported. Banks are private enterprises and the decision to engage or disengage staff is best left to the management and boards of the institution.Â These decisions are taken on the basis of business imperatives.â€
FGâ€™s truce meeting
The meeting which is being convened by the Labour and Productivity, Minister, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, Vanguard gathered, was directed by the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, because of the tension generated and social implications of the massive retrenchment which was said to have been directed by CBNâ€™s Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi.
In fact, mid-December, the minister had faulted the massive retrenchments in the banks and called for immediate stoppage, but the management of the banks who claimed that CBN had directed them to cut down their work-force, especially the troubled banks by 30 per cent, went ahead on the action.
Facts on ground indicated that both so-called healthy banks and the troubled banks, have been using the CBNâ€™s alleged directive as a cover to off-load thousands of workers into the saturated labour market.
Vanguard sources disclosed that the meeting was initially scheduled for today, but had to be shifted by a day because of the meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, MPC,Â of the apex bank, holding between yesterday and today.
But for the governmentâ€™s initiated stakeholdersâ€™ meeting, organised labour had concluded plans to begin a sustained picketing of the erring banks which had in the past few weeks sacked no fewer than 7000 workers.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; Trade Union Congress of Nigeria,Â TUC; Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions, ASSBIF, and its National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Employees, NUBIFIE, counterpart, had in different fora and statements, condemned the alleged CBNâ€™s 30 percent sack directives and banks implementation of same.
Confirming the meeting to Vanguard, Acting President of ASSBIFI, Mr. Sunday Salako, said labourâ€™s position was unambiguous, which is theÂ recall of all the sacked workers since they were sacked without due process and disregard to the subsisting collective agreement in the industry among other illegalities.
According to him, â€œIt is about peace, it about righting the wrong and following due process in what we do. This is a lawful country and under a civil rule. We must do things in a civilised way. So, we will go to the meeting to tell the government of our position. The sacked workers must be recalled before any other thing, period,â€ he added.
CBN denies ordering banks to sack
In a statement issued yesterday, the apex bank said, â€œThe Central Bank of Nigeria has noted with dismay, several untrue reports in the media alleging that the Central Bank of Nigeria ordered the mass sack of Deposit Money Banksâ€™ staff and rationalisation of their branches.
â€œWe wish to reiterate categorically that the Central Bank of Nigeria has never directed commercial banks to sack staff or rationalise branches as reported.Â Banks are private enterprises and the decision to engage or disengage staff is best left to the management and boards of the institution.Â These decisions are taken on the basis of business imperatives.
â€œThe CBN expects all banks to follow due process in honouring all terms of appointment of their employees and any collective agreements signed with Workersâ€™ Unions.
â€œHowever, the CBN does not consider it appropriate to encourage loss-making banks to further erode depositorsâ€™ funds and capital through inefficiencies in cost management .The public and all stakeholders should,Â therefore, disregard the allegation in its entirety,â€ the statement added.