Bank workers under the auspices of the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), are preparing for a headlong collision with Ecobank Nigeria, for sacking about 1,200 personnel nationwide without recourse to the union.
NUBIFIE also insisted that it will not tolerate the lender’s poor severance package to the affected workers, who were majorly contract staff, saying it is not worth rejoicing after putting in all their years into the job.
The Union threats come on the back Ecobank’s management action last week Friday, which saw the sacking of 1,200 workers across branches nationwide, which mostly tellers and cashiers.
President of NUBIFIE, Anthony Abakpa, in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday, said they will contest the action publicly, to ensure that the right thing is done, and the respect of collective bargaining also obtained.
He said the most painful part of the whole unlawful retrenchment was the alleged fraud perpetrated by the bank in connivance with the outsourcing firms.
Abakpa, said the severance package was an embarrassment compared to the years of hard work the workers had put in, saying: “Some of those who had spent six to 13 years, only for the bank to pay them peanuts of N52,000; N86,000; N100,000, and the highest that could go to them was N125,000.
“We are not insisting that they cannot sack them, but we are saying they should call us to bargain for them on their severance package.
“We don’t even know the rationale behind the severance package. What indices did they use in calculating their severance benefit?
“At the employment point, they told them if they work very well they will convert them to permanent staff. Many of them put in their best, hoping they would be promoted in no distant time, and all of a sudden they just flushed them out.”
However, Econbank is convinced of no wrongdoing in its actions, saying in a statement made available to The Guardian that “Ecobank is not obligated to renew its contract with the service providers involved.”
Besides, it argued, the bank did not disengage its staff, but “had decided not to renew the contract of its third party recruitment agencies, which expired recently, and as such, returned this category of personnel back to these agencies who are their employers.”
Furthermore, Ecobank insisted on its generosity in the severance package, saying: “As a demonstration of the Bank’s concern and compassion for the affected personnel of our contractors, palliative measures were put in place by the Bank to cushion the effect on them: These include payment of contract cessation packages of over half a billion Naira already paid through their employers as well as opportunity given to those with requisite qualification to apply to the Bank for permanent employment.”
This is just as the lender said is investing in the employment of full time graduates and as such over 300 graduates are currently undergoing training at the Bank’s state of the art Academy, which was recently accredited by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. They are to be absorbed into the system at the end their training as permanent staff.
But NUBIFIE is not satisfied with Ecobank’s defence, saying: “We will make sure that we fight for the right of the workers. We will ensure that based on the number of years they had put in; they will calculate their severance benefit so they can go about their normal life.
“We will not take it likely, where someone in his own country would be enslaved, because if we do, other banks would want to do a similar thing.”
Similarly, outsourcing and recruitment agencies under the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), chided Ecobank for non-renewal of the contracts.
Secretary General of HuCaPAN, Solomon Adebosin, said rather than sacking the workers, the lender should have absorbed them into its Academy, since they are already experienced on the job, and urged the bank to dialogue with the third party employers on the best ways to go about it.
“If they claim they have an Academy to train young graduates, does it mean the positions the sacked workers would be shut down while they are training the new ones? They should incorporate these people into the Academy,” he said.