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Activists condemn banks’ unbridled ‘casualisation’

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The reign of casualisation in the banking sector has been described as inimical to the operations of financial institutions.Reacting to the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which showed that more banks opted for increased contract staffing, as opposed to full employment, as a cost control and risk aversion strategy, labour activists said the trend should be reversed.

Specifically, the report showed that out of estimated 101,861 industry workforce, about 43,955 workers, representing 43.2 per cent are currently “casual workers”, under the guise of contract staff.According to a report by Campaign for Democratic Workers Rights, 45 per cent of Nigeria’s workforce is casual workers, with 50 per cent existing in the downstream oil and gas, and banking sectors of the economy.

This has generated concerns in the financial sector and among labour leaders; even as they noted that the workers chose to accept the offer due to the high rate of unemployment in the country.The National President, Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI), Comrade Oyinkan Olasanoye, told The Guardian that the Labour Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not been fair to workers.

Under the Labour Act, organisations can use outsourced staff, but they cannot be used for more than six months before they are converted to full-time employees.
However, organisations are not keeping to the rules, as outsourced staff remain in the same position for years, and sometimes, sacked without due consultation.
She noted that the Ministry of Labour and Employment is not enforcing compliance among companies, stating that the Ministry needs to encourage more inspectors to go out and look at the conditions that casual workers are being exposed to.She said ASSBIFI has done a lot of proposals to the National Assembly on the effects of casualisation in the financial sector, but they are yet to receive feedback and due attention on them.

Olasanoye noted that the high rate of unemployment in Nigeria has forced most of the unemployed, who had stayed at home for more than six years, to accept such casual offers whenever the opportunity arose.She said these casual workers are not members of ASSBIFI, adding that if they were, the union will take up the issue and review their terms of contract.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that rather than employing experienced and more qualified hands, banks go for holders of the Ordinary National Degree (OND) for the same jobs, but as contract staff, to be paid “peanuts” and surcharged for every little mistake.According to Olasanoye, while casualisation of workers seems to be gaining grounds globally, the manner it is being done in Nigeria leaves much to be desired.She said the association is concerned about the development, because in some cases, frauds within the financial sector had been linked to casual workers.

“For a worker that is being paid N40,000 or N50,000, to be counting millions of naira daily is such a big temptation. There is almost nothing you can do not to prevent such a person from committing fraud if the opportunity presents itself.“In our sector, we work like a team, and if there is fraud involving any member in that team, every member of that team will pay the price. So, for us, because we have gratuity, we have a name. We are professionals, we work with the ethics of the profession, so we don’t want to be involved in anything fraud.

“But as long as they are not in the union, the Ministry of Labour should do more by looking at areas such as surcharges and remunerations. It is not the employee that is supposed to pay, but the organisation that is asking the agency to supply them,” she said.On what the association is doing to curtail the menace, Olasanoye said: “This is a battle that everybody must come together to fight. It is not something we can leave for the financial sector or the union alone.“We have met severally and submitted many proposals to the National Assembly, because it is also affecting us as full time workers. There is nothing at stake for any contract staff.

“We have been on this for three years. We have been to the Ministry of Labour and Employment that we should also be given the sort of regulation that the oil and gas sector is using. We have not been able to achieve that.“There is nothing seriously wrong with outsourcing, but the wrong implementation of outsourcing agreement is what we are fighting against. It is not that we don’t want casualisation, but they should be treated like humans.

“If we decide to go on strike, the whole nation will feel the pain, and that is why we are using social dialogue in handling the matter. We encourage all casual workers, but we also appeal to the Federal Ministry of Labour, that in the review of the Labour Act, they should make it mandatory for all workers to be able to join the union.

“But our appeal is that Nigerian workers should have the benefit of rights at work. Either they are employed as contract staff or not, they should be allowed to work with dignity and they should have rights as workers in the sector.“We may not be able to stop our members from being laid off, but we have been applying due process in resolving lay-off in banks. For every bank that is part of ASSBIFI, there is nowhere that anyone has been laid off that we did not engage the employers to agree on what they will take home. We also negotiate and agree on the number of workers they want to lay off,” she said.Sharing their experiences, some contract workers in the top five banks in Nigeria, in a separate chats with The Guardian, narrated similar conditions in terms of remuneration, job security, and welfare.

Preferring to remain anonymous, they said working as a contract staff is full of daily fears, as termination can be unexpected and with slightest mistake.They also complained about working longer and taking more responsibility than the regular bank staffers, but receiving peanuts and subjected to all manners of supervision, bossing and surcharges.

The President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Bobboi Bala Kaigama, had recently said that casual employment is indeed core to the business activities of banks and other financial institutions.He noted that the development is a risky one because of the sensitive nature of the sector.He called on the Central Bank Nigeria, and the Ministry of Labour, to immediately tackle the menace, stating that a casual worker cannot be loyal to the organisation, as they are exposed to precarious conditions with near total denial of the benefits associated with permanent and decent work.

The Chairman, Lagos State Chapter, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Idowu Adelakun, hinged casualisation in the financial sector on barring workers from belonging to unions. He said once issues are reported to the umbrella body of the NLC, they will mobilise the sectors concerned to act and resolve issues appropriately.

He said a worker needs not to work in fear of being sacked and with the meagre salary, and urged everyone to rise up to fight for their right, mobilise all workers, and ensure that every worker enjoy decent work.Latest NBS report showed that 22,118 so-called “contract staff” were recruited in the last one-year, representing 101.29 per cent increase from 21,837 in 2017, while it rose by 11,942 from 32,013 in the first quarter of 2018.

The sector, however, employed 6,766 junior workers in the last one year, representing 20 per cent growth, and 105 persons in the first quarter representing 0.26 per cent increase.In the executive and senior staff levels, the banking industry engaged 49 persons and disengaged 2,682 others, representing an increase of 30.43 per cent, and a decrease of 13.53 per cent respectively, in the last one year.

When Prof. Charles Soludo, forced the pills of N25 billion recapitalisation down the throats banks in 2005, most stakeholders believed that the industry would soon become the engine room and driving force of the nation, but this hope was to become a hug mirage.The reform of the banking sector was essentially touted to be aimed at consolidating the capital base of the banks, protect of depositors’ interests, and position the sector for the challenges of global investment opportunities.

Contrary to erroneous belief that workers in the banking sector have better conditions of employment than their counterparts in other sectors, the reality is that their statutorily guaranteed rights are constantly violated by their employers.For instance, although bankers are well dressed, their take home salary is nothing to “write home about”, even when they work longer hours than their counterparts in other industries.Also, workers are not allowed to unionise in some banks, just as marketing targets force some into unwholesome and unethical practices in order to deliver.


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