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NLC tackles First Bank on 1,000 workers’ retrenchment

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has asked the management of First Bank Nigeria Plc., to suspend its plans to lay off over 1,000 of its employees.

The National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE), an affiliate of the NLC, had recently alerted the central labour union of the plans by the first generation bank to embark on a mass retrenchment of its staff.

President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said that rather than retrenching such a huge workforce, the bank should put in place measures to protect their rights at the work place.

In a letter marked NLC/NS/A. 14/80 and addressed to the Managing Director of First Bank Plc., Wabba expressed reservations over the term “outsourced” used by the bank to describe the workers whose jobs were on the line.

He argued that categorising workers who have rendered their services to the bank for an average of five years as “outsourced” was inhumane.

The labour leader noted that based on the Nigeria Labour Act, employers are required to issue the employee a written contract of employment within three months of engagement by the company.

In the letter, Wabba also argued that any such retrenchment exercise must be done in line with the provisions of the Labour Act guiding Redundancy Exercise.

He said that apart from the non-recognition of outsourced labour by Nigeria’s labour laws; it is extremely tortuous to imagine that First Bank, with an enabling banking license, could boldly assert that its workers are the responsibility of an entity not licensed to operate as a bank.

“As a matter of fact, what our laws recognize and what is extensively provided in Section 7 and 11 of Nigeria’s Labour Act is that employers are required, within three months of engagement of an employee, to give the employee a written contract of employment which must specify, among other things, a description of the parties to the contract of employment, the nature of the services(s) to be rendered, the tenure of the contract, remunerations which must be paid, hours of work, the period of notice to be served before the contract can be terminated and possible grounds for the termination of an employee’s contract.

“The information available to us indicates that First Bank of Nigeria Plc., by its plan to retrench over 1,000 of its staff and without adequate and commensurate severance benefits, is in severe breach of the extant provisions in our labour laws. We also understand that the management of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. has refused to enter into dialogue with NUBIFIE which is the workers’ representative trade union organisation.

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“This is also in contravention to Section 20 of Nigeria’s Labour Act and Convention 98 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the right to Organising and Collective Bargaining which Nigeria had long ratified.

“It is disheartening that the mass retrenchment billed for the end of November 2019 targets workers whose ages range between 35 and 55 years and who have put in an average of five years in the services of First Bank Nigeria Plc. We also understand that the workers being listed for this unjust and inhumane treatment by your bank have been categorized as outsourced workers.

“We wish to remind the management of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. that workers are not commodities to be used and tossed aside at will. In addition to declaring humungous profits to its shareholders annually, First Bank of Nigeria Plc. has a higher moral responsibility to the welfare of its workers as they are the ones who create the profit and wealth that the shareholders enjoy. We believe that it must be people before profit,” the letter read in part.

The NLC has, therefore, demanded an immediate suspension of the plans to retrench the embattled workers.

It has also asked First Bank to enter into genuine negotiations with NUBIFIE on the issue.

According to the leadership of the NLC, the bank must put adequate measures in place to re-assure its workers of the bank’s commitment to protect their rights at work.

NLC warned that should the bank fail to give due consideration to these demands, organised labour would be left with no other option than to adopt time-tested trade union measures to protect the interest and welfare of workers in First Bank.

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