Seven money deposit banks might be facing a fresh hurdle in the early months of 2017 as organised labour is engaging in clandestine talks within its ranks for a showdown with the affected banks in the New Year.
Leading in the planned onslaught against the banks, as revealed by BusinessDay investigations, are National Union of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (NUBIFIE) backed by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) under the aegis of United Labour Congress.
The planned picketing of the banks, according to a source is fallout of the inability of the management of the affected banks and NUBIFIE to resolve lingering issues around “sack of workers without recourse to industry collective bargaining agreement, refusal of unionisation among other anti-labour practices”
Hit by the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the federal government with the attendant huge withdrawals some deposit money banks resorted to massive staff rationalisation, leading to 1,000 bank workers losing their jobs in 2016. Labour had reacted swiftly by announcing plans to picket the banks.
Sunday Salako, former president of Association of Senior Staff of Banks Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), had faulted the decision of the Federal Government to pull the funds from banks in one swoop, saying it amounted to “stripping the economy of energy” when banks are denied funds to advance loans to businesses.
Although an intervention by the federal ministry of labour and employment, leading to a meeting in Abuja, involving the Ayuba Wabba led Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), representatives of the banks and Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) averted the disruption of the banks’ operations, NUBIFIE, backed by the then NLC faction led by Joe Ajaero, insisted on the picketing on the grounds that it was not part of the Abuja meeting and that the parties in attendance could not speak for the bank workers who are its members.
The renewed plan to mobilise against the banks early next year, it was learnt, would be jointly prosecuted by some 16 labour unions affiliated to United Labour Congress (ULC), the new labour centre formed three weeks ago, and led by Joe Ajaero, as president and Achese Igwe, as deputy president. The two unionists double as general secretary of NUEE and National Union of Petroleum and NUPENG respectively.
“Nigerian banks do not see the need to respect the country’s extant labour laws. In the New Year, we would be taking on seven of them, one old generation and six new generation banks. They must not be allowed to play above the law. While we agree the employer can hire and fire, there are laws guiding this. You do not wake up and sack massively without subjecting yourself to the industry collective bargaining agreement without the union. This is what obtains in different sectors of the economy and it is backed by our labour laws.”
The source said before launching the onslaught in the early months of next year, “we would officially intimate of the employers’ body, adding that “the issue of unionisation in the banks would be put on front burner in the coming year.”