By Babajide Komolafe
Activities at the Lagos corporate office of Oceanic Bank were, on Monday, paralyzedÂ as drivers shut down operations to protest managementâ€™s attempt at handing them over to an out sourcingÂ agency against agreements earlier reached between the two parties.But in a swift reaction, the management of the bank condemn the strike action, saying it is uncalled for.
As early as 8 a.m, the drivers mobilized and switched off power supply to the offices located on Ozumba Mbadiwe and started chanting solidarity songs.
They insisted that the bankâ€™s management should pay severance or disengagement entitlements to junior workers who had put in between 3 and 21 years in its service.
The bankâ€™s management drafted a squad of Policemen to keep the protesting drivers from becoming violent and destroying property within the premises.
The drivers chanted songs accusing John Aboh led management as been selfish and uncaring to the plight of junior workers.
According to a petition from the workers and addressed to the President, Nigeria Labour Congress, they demanded that severance benefits be paid to all junior workers without pre-conditions attached while management proposal of the new outsourcing vendors should be optional.
Specifically, the drivers had earlier reached an agreement with the bankâ€™s management that drivers who have spent reasonable number of years in the service of the bank are to be retired with full benefits.
This means that drivers who had spent between 10 and more years in the bank will retire and go with their full benefits.
However, this is not to be as the bank reneged on the earlier agreement and decided to bring in three out- sourcing companies to handle its fleet and drivers.
The idea is that the drivers will have to re-apply to the three selected companies for employment.
According to some of the aggrieved drivers, â€œthe implication is that we have to start afresh. It means losing all the years we have put in the service of the bank.
â€œThey donâ€™t want to pay us our entitlements. Let them pay us off first and then we can re-apply, that is for those who are interested.â€
The drivers who have threatened to shut down the bankâ€™s operations are demanding that all their disengagement entitlements should be settled, and then those who want to re-apply should do so and start with the outsourced companies on a fresh slate.
The drivers decried a situation where they will lose all their benefits under the guise of being transferred to a new firm.
Condermning the action of the staff in statement issued on Monday, the management said,
â€œThe attention of the bank has been drawn to the illegal activities of a faction of junior staff cadre (mainly drivers and dispatch riders).
â€œThe ringleaders of this faction are not elected officials of any known trade union be it at local or national level and no trade dispute was declared.â€
The management has described this action as uncalled for as it has always maintained an open-door approach towards staff matters and has demonstrated its commitment to dialogue, transparency and empathy in its negotiations on staff matters.
It is on record that the new management of Oceanic Bank has been working closely with the local and national executives of NUBIFIE in respect of sundry issues bordering on staff welfare.
This has been commended on several occasions by the officials of NUBIFIE, at local and national levels of the union.
â€œThe current unfortunate and emotional display was supposedly informed by the demand of this faction of junior staff to be paid redundancy benefits while they are still in employment.
â€œManagementâ€™s position is that accruals for terminal benefits for staff are ongoing and warehoused; pending the time the concerned staff is disengaged from employment.
â€œIt is absurd and goes against all logic for any staff to request for redundancy benefits while still in employment.
â€œThe bankâ€™s management has made it clear that staff who wish to withdraw their services will be paid their terminal benefits in line with their grade levels and number of years of service.
â€œIt is pertinent to note that in earlier discussions with the bankâ€™s management on the demand by this faction, the NUBIFIE local chapter and the national body had expressed their disapproval of the tactics being employed by the workers and have declared the picketing illegal.
â€œOceanic Bank is grateful for this support and pledge to work with NUBIFIE to ensure that all applicable labour laws are complied with in its dealings with members of staff.
â€œThe management of Oceanic Bank remains committed to best practices in its approach to human capital issues for all levels of staff members.â€